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)