G4YSS SOTA Actn Rprt, Mickle Fell, (NP2) 24-07-07

All time favourite: G/NP-002 (Mickle Fell) using GX0OOO/P.
Times: BST UOS on 24-07-07.

For the past 31 years, apart from on two occasions, I have traditionally used the 2 x 4.5 mile northern route from Cow Green reservoir car park via Birkdale Farm and across Maize Beck. http://www.sotawatch.org/reflector.php?topic=2633# Maize Beck must be forded and after that, other than a few animal paths, the country is rough for the remaining two miles. After the rainfall we’ve had this ‘summer,’ that route was a non-starter. My 6 year old son & I came dangerously close to being swept away when we forded Maize Beck in torrential rain in 1986, as part of an overnight summit camp and radio activation on 2m & 70cm. There is a choice of two bridges; one is 4 miles upstream and the other 4 miles down.

So it had to be the ‘Grouse Shooter’s’ road again. This gravelled track leaves the B6276 road at NY 8719 2110 and thanks to James M0ZZO and Ian G7KXV, who ‘pioneered’ for it SOTA on the same day last year, it is now well understood.

I employed a bike as far as the locked gate at the top of the track NY 8287 2432. This took 66 minutes of mostly riding but I had to dismount on the steeper sections, particularly where the sandstone surface begins (NY 8322 2340) as this consists of course rocks and is very loose. From the gate, the trig point was reached in 7 minutes but the actual summit is still over a mile and a half (2.5km) further along Mickle’s long, curved ‘hogsback.’ I can never resist checking out the Stirling bomber remains at NY 8092 2468, NY 8086 2480, NY 8082 2488, NY 8087 2491 and the ‘ruin’ at NY 8105 2473, so it takes a little longer than it should and the ascent used up 110 minutes, in total. I expected extensive soggy ground this time but it really wasn’t that bad.

Last year, after putting-on a rare WAB area; NY72 Durham, a careful choice of location (NY 8012 2415) enabled a second WAB/P area NY82 Cumbria as well as the SOTA, in a single activation. This year I was feeling lazy and unfit so it was to be just the SOTA, from a position 30m from the substantial summit cairn. This also happens to be the tent site for the 1991 and 2004 overnight activations. Several rocks, used as tent peg weights then, are still arranged in a rectangle now.

I was ridiculously earlier than advertised (2 hours) so I phoned to ask Roy, G4SSH to post me on 3.723 CW. We tried out the propagation with reassuring 579 / 559 reports over the 127 km path. After lunch (a thing I don’t get time for in winter), into the log went Cris GM4FAM, in response to merely a couple of preliminary di-di-di-dahs, to test the key and VSWR! This kind of occurrence is not infrequent and shows just how keen chasers can be to bag the mountain. Another explanation is that Cris recognized my worse than normal ‘fist.’ Not only had ‘rust’ set into the CW part of my brain, the key was jamming on dashes again.

A CQ or two after that produced a total of 8 QSO’s for 80m CW. The most difficult was Pete EI7CC, trying to reconcile Dublin’s high noise level with my puny 5W signal but the most difficult are also the most satisfying, when they do eventually ‘come off’. There was deep QSB on all HF bands used today and 5 watts does not handle QSB at all well. The only solution is to keep trying; sending the report interspersed with the callers suffix, over and over in the hope that it will be QSL’d in due course. Radio wise, chasers very often have the hardest task.

Next came 3.723 SSB and first up at 10:52 z was Steve GW7AAV. I think it was he who told me that Mickle Fell had been the final summit needed for his full set of G/NP’s. I was delighted to oblige. Steve G1INK/P called me from Lords Seat (LD33), using an 5 MHz dipole (untuned for 80m) but the first of today’s two ‘INK’ S2S’s, ensued. There was difficulty with Mick 2E0HJD/M and Arthur GW1LDY but both ended up in the log. Despite many attempts, I could not get a report to Nigel, 2E0NHM but it didn’t matter in the end; we managed a QSO on 2m FM later on. With 11 in the log for 80m SSB, it was time to QSY to 7.032 CW for the Europeans.

I could hear a SOTA activation taking place just below 7.032, so I had to go up onto 7.032.4 to clear this from my 500 Hz filter. Roy (SSH) helped with another post and it was ‘steady away’ from 11:38 to 12:20 z, with a further 11 QSO’s logged from DL, HB, F and PA, finishing with Frank (trying to confuse me by signing EI/G3RMD!)

An unrushed summer’s day out wouldn’t have been complete without a ‘go’ on 30m and to this end, the QSY frequency (10.118 CW) was sent about a dozen times on 40m, in the hope of a posting. (Thanks to Roy G4SSH and later Ambrosi HB9AGH). My aerial does not ‘officially’ cover 30m but by selecting the 40m ‘link’ on one side and 20m on the other, the resulting offset dipole is resonant and works well. Progress, dogged by QSB, was slow again but 11 stations were worked on here. Kenton, HB9DOT was by far the most difficult but it seems we made it in the end. Unusually, 10 MHz didn’t serve any region any more efficiently than 7 MHz today, though I could hear as close-in as Phil G4OBK on 7 (working another SOTA) and I actually worked Roy G4SSH on 10 megs.

It seemed to me that many of the regulars were missing from the log and the QSY to 5 MHz channel FE was intended to try to rectify this situation. I half expected Alistair GW0VMZ to be monitoring and I was not disappointed. Three more absentees were then entered into the log, namely John M0JDK, Paul G0HNW and Geoff G4WHA. This is when Steve G1INK gave me a second S2S (LD38) and GW7AAV, also Steve, finished off the six.

Down with the dipole and up with the 2m vertical J pole. A CQ brought in Ian G3CDM in Darlington and we had a 20 minute QSO. Derek, GM1ZJQ/P called in from SS168; my third S2S of the day. I had forgotten about the failure with 2E0NHM on 80m when Nigel supplied the final QSO of the day and pretty pleased he was too, having invested hours trying to chase NP2. I walked off just prior to 16:00 BST, reaching the bike by 16:44. A ‘free & easy ride’ was anticipated but in the event, I was forced to walk down the initial steep, loose sections, not wanting an accident in that lonely location. Nevertheless, it took only a further half-hour to the car, a distance of almost 5 miles. As the bike was loaded onto the roof rack, I noticed a puncture had occurred un-noticed. The drive home took 2 hours and 15 min, to 19:35.

Eqpt: FT817ND (All except two QSO’s were 5W), 80m ‘link’ dipole, 5m CFC mast. Internal 2.7 Ah AA Ni-Mh’s (fully discharged) and external 11 x 2.7 Ah AA Ni-Mh pack (67% discharged). J-Pole vertical for 2m. Jingtong 2m H/H for backup (not used). WX: Low cloud at first, then minimal sunshine and later overcast, 11 deg C, 15mph NW wind. 50 QSO’s on 4 bands, 3 modes.

As is normal for Mickle Fell, I never saw a ‘soul’ all day. There were Curlews, Lapwings, Skylarks, frogs and plenty of sheep but not a single Red Grouse! Maybe they all drowned. Unlike last year, no gamekeeper was encountered. I only heard two or three heavy artillery shells explode and those were a long way away.

THANKS to all STATIONS WORKED and to G4SSH, GM4FAM, F5AKL, HB9AGH, GW7AAV & 2E0NHM for spotting. The conditions and my QRP made it hard going today, so your assistance was appreciated.

Approx 450m ascent and 12.5 miles cycled / walked. Driving: 188 miles.

73, John (G4YSS using GX0OOO/P, SSEG Clubcall, except on 60m)

In reply to G4YSS:

hi John

A great activation report and a real good read.

Congratulations on a superb activation of Mickle Fell G/NP-002 a very rare summit which I have been chasing for six months.

Thanks for our QSO on 80m-cw.
It was a unique summit for me and I’m sure that a lot of people who worked you on this summit also claimed it as a unique.

My QSL cards have now arrived from the printers and I will QSL you direct for this one John if that’s ok with you.

Thanks again and 73


In reply to GW0DSP:
Hi John
Yes, well done indeed - mni tnx for the FB activation and the detailed report.
NP-002 has filled a big hole in my wants list!
73 de CRIS

In reply to G4YSS:

Hi John,

Again a wonderful read about your activation on G/NP-002!
I always enjoy your reports about the activations you have done!
As it happens, “Mackle Fell” was a new one too me, so i can scrap that one from my list!

Tnx again John and see you down the log!

73, Age - pa0xaw

I was listening hard for you John, but to no avail. I could detect your signal occasionally on 3723 CW, but not well enough to try a QSO. On the other bands there was absolutely no trace of you. Still, I’m glad you had a good day out! Maybe next time …

73 de Les, G3VQO

In reply to G4YSS:

Nice report John, it is always good to see how you tackled the summits as these reports can save others from making regrettable decisions. For example: 66 minutes bike riding is probably 3 hours walking. I am now glad I did not do that one when I had the chance and when I do it I can make a better valued judgement as to how.

Thank you for putting this one on, it has taken two years for me to be finally in the shack when the conditions were good. I have missed it most of the time due to being at work and a few times when the bands were not running my way.

As if completing all the Northern Pennines was not enough in the evening John M0JDK kindly gave me CE-002 Walton Hill to finish off the Central England group as well. With a couple of unique South Wales summits from John GW4BVE and some nice 10 pointers from the German activators it was a good days chasing.

I need just 13 more summits to complete the English summits and I wonder how long they will take to get?

Look forward to working you from more summits when the weather gets more to your liking, freezing cold and snowing. ;o)

73 GW7AAV (Still grinning like the Cheshire cat. Thanks!)

Thanks for all the interesting and heartening comments:

Mike GW0DSP: Yes, please QSL via G0OOO QTHR and it should take less than a week to print and return it. Very glad to be of service.

Cris GM4FAM: I could tell you needed this one Cris, a millisecond after I sent the V’s on the 80m band! (Thanks for the earlier kind invitation. I don’t know when I’ll be up that way again. In May, I called you /M a couple of times on the Inverness repeater, just on the offchance. You are probably like me; I hardly ever listen to our GB3YC when I’m at home. Good to work you from the NS’s though and I remember crossing the bridge that you spoke about.)

Age PA0XAW: Pleased the QSB let me through to you. I have no problem remembering your name, as it’s so distinctive. I am always reminded of GM4ZFZ/P and a night I spent on Fountains Fell (30-July-04). Both you & I worked Jon on GM/WS1 Ben Nevis, on 160m at around midnight. Keep calling in.

Les G3VQO: Sorry about this Les. Don’t know about holes in the ozone layer. Someone should squirt a bit of extra ‘ether’ up there. Better luck next year.

Steve GW7AAV: You ‘burst forth’ from my speaker with glee. It gives me a real boost when I can make someone so happy with so little. I too can be made happy with little.

Thank you to everyone (a surprising number) who responded to ‘Mass Matters’. There were some great ideas and a lot of discussion about a subject which has always been very dear to my backbone! After that, I think it can truly be said, ‘yes, one way or another (though it is subjective) mass really does matter.’

CU on the wireless,

73, John (YSS)