Gt.WHERNSIDE, G/NP-008/ IO94AD. VHF-NFD/ SOTA (10th year) 08-July-2012.
G4YSS (using SSEG club callsign - GX0OOO/P unaccompanied).
Walking times BST (UTC plus 1). Radio log times UTC (suffixed by ‘z’).
This was the tenth consecutive VHF-NFD from NP8 for G4YSS/ GX0OOO.
IC706-2G, 10-ely parabeam for 432 MHz, 3-ely SOTA-Beam for 144 MHz, Half-Wave vertical for 4m-FM, J-Pole vert for 2m-FM. 80 thru 20m link dipole on 5m mast for MF-HF and loading coils for 160m. (No 6m antenna was taken as this band is now used on Saturday only).
1 x 13.2 Ah; 1 x 9 Ah; 1 x 8.6 Ah Li-Po’s (31 Ah total - 2.4kg)
4m Band: IC-E90 Quad-band 5W (3W on 4m) H/H with integral 7.2V / 1.3Ah Li-Po battery.
2m-FM ‘G4SSH Scarborough spotting link’: VX150-5W H/H with integral 7.2V / 2.7 Ah Ni-Mh battery.
Pack weight: 20 kg, (44 pounds) including 1.25 ltr drinks & 1 ltr ice. (Lowest weight so far. 63 lbs in 2011 for campover)
VHF-NFD on Saturday 07-07-12:
From 14:00z for one hour, Phil G0UUU/P & I as G4YSS/P operated Field Day from HuMP Brow Moor G/HTW-003 / IO94RJ, ten miles north of Scarborough and 266m ASL. With a 3-ely on 2m, a 10-ely on 70cm and a vertical for 6m, we worked 7 stations on 2m SSB, 3 on 70cm SSB and 1 on 6m SSB. This was partly to test the equipment for the next day.
WX Forecast Sunday:
The date of NFD is fixed at the beginning of July which is often the start of the lightning risk season. Most of my pre-NFD worries are centred on this subject because a multi-antenna station, shelter and related paraphernalia cannot be rapidly dismantled.
The MWIS Mountain WX forecast for the Yorkshire Dales was much the same as it often is at this time of year and lightning was mentioned. That was merely a ‘low risk’ warning but the need to set up in low-cloud and rain had once again to be faced. Temperature and wind speed would pose no problems however.
Because 2 or 3 inches of rain had fallen 2 days prior there was a danger that local roads might be unserviceable so I drove from Scarborough via Ripon, Pateley Bridge and Kettlewell, arriving at the 1500 feet ASL parking spot at the top of Park Rash (SD 9863 7573) at 05:25. The journey had taken 2 hours.
After donning waterproofs and the heavy pack, a start was made in low-cloud and drizzle at 05:43. The route is via a gate, through a very boggy area (detours required today) to a couple of steep gullies and a stile at SD 9963 7522. After that the gradient eases. The well-defined path takes minor detours around outcrop and is marked by a series of yellow-topped posts (at SE 0005 7468, SE 0019 7429 and SE 0022 7414). The summit cairn and trig-point was reached in fog by 06:28. Ascent is modest at 211m and distance is around 5.5km (up & down).
After a couple of ‘I did it’ photos it was then NE from the trig for couple of hundred metres to find the usual featureless operating point. The surface of grass on peat was particularly wet this time, after having taken a month’s worth of rain just 48 hours before.
It takes the better part of an hour to prepare the station consisting of a flysheet positioned into wind, a poly groundsheet for protection from below plus the three rigs and five antennas. As in previous years, half of an 18-ely Parabeam atop a 2.2m (hand-carried) dural tube and a modified 2m-3ely SOTA Beam supported in identical manner, were positioned each side of the flysheet, close enough to reach under the fabric to rotate them. The two beams were aimed roughly SSW as a starting position.
The 80m link dipole on its 5m mast is erected east-west alongside. On this occasion the 160m loading coils were fitted to it. The 2m J-Pole and 4m end-fed vertical aerials are sometimes fixed on the ridge tent’s support poles but this time two fibre glass tent poles were used to hold the 4m aerial. The two handhelds were left on all day; one set to 70.450 and the other on 145.400. The IC706-2G was canted up on the rucksack and connected to the first of three batteries; a 13.2 Ah Li-Po. It needs to be wrapped in aluminium mesh if it is to function on the 2m band without ‘taking off.’ Grounding it makes no difference. With the ‘old bones’ in mind, a 600 gm airbed was inflated then folded and tied to form a basic seat. This had sprung a leak by mid-morning; a happening which did not go down well with the operator.
This year I took 1.3 litres plus a 1 litre bottle which was frozen to keep everything cool. It can get rather hot in a tent if the sun does shine. 0.7 litres was left over at the end and next year less food will be taken up. As per the first can of sardines left in 2010, the one stored there last year had also ‘blown’ despite being protected by a pile of stones. I thought cans would be OK to depot there but obviously the climate; in particular freeze/ thaw cycling must be too harsh for them.
GREAT WHERNSIDE, G/NP-008, 704m, 6 pts for SOTA. 06:28 to 17:09. 13 to 15 Deg.C. 10 mph east wind. Low-cloud until mid-morning. Light rain at times and periods of mainly hazy sunshine. WAB: SE07. LOC: IO-94-AD. Intermittent (Orange) phone coverage - improving?
The first operation was to establish the spotting system via G4SSH. At 102 km from Irton, NP8 is the closest 2k to Scarborough. My 5W was around 31-51 to him but Roy was strong at all times. I could not hear Scarborough stations Kevin G0NUP (Ayton) or Nick G4OOE who is screened by Racecourse Hill.
Note: The band sessions reported below are not in chrono order.
SOTA is described first followed by VHF-NFD.
1.832 CW for SOTA - 4 QSO‘s from 07:02z:
After working five NFD stations on 2m it was time to QSY to 160m. It almost goes without saying that with the exception of G4OBK who has no 1.8 MHz aerial at present, the 160m enthusiasts would be listening at the alerted time of 07:00z. With 100W to the loaded dipole and helped by a spot from G4SSH, I logged 4 stations. G0VOF Mark in Blackburn, G3RMD Frank in Cheltenham (best DX), plus G4SSH Roy & G0NUP both near Scarborough but barely hearing me. QRN is the major barrier to 160m daytime SOTA and probably for this reason I heard nothing from the Dublin stations. 100W was used throughout and it was surprising to work as far as Cheltenham with daylight now established for four hours.
After struggling with the 160m setup I was lucky to get on there at all. Very high VSWR was the problem. This system has worked for me countless times before but the coils just refused to resonate the dipole on this occasion. Worse still, I was getting RF in the ‘shack.’ Eventually the VSWR did come down but only after adjusting the coils with a lot more slug than the usual 4.5 cm.
Removing the coils, I checked the 80m and 40m bands. The dipole was good.** A visual examination of the coils revealed no faults. I had one of those erasers which you can buy to go on the end of pencils. With this over my metal CW toggle switch, I could at least key the TX without getting RF burns. Nevertheless it was much too slack which made my keying more erratic than usual. Every so often my fingers would slip onto a the metal fixing nut at which point a puff of smoke would rise. That was my skin going up and the smell was acrid! I must apologize for the gaps in transmission when this happened and the extra dots due to the poor fit of the impromptu insulator.
(**Postscript: A break was later found in the link-dipole wire at a knot downstream of one of the 40m break points which double as the 160m coil fitting points. Probably because of different current / voltage distributions on 80m and 160m, this only affected the VSWR/ resonance when 160m was configured. It does explain why much more inductance than normal was required from the 160m loading coils to resonate on 1.832. The RF burns can be explained through imbalance of the normally balanced dipole in that one leg was normal length and the other was short but compensated by extra inductance set on both coils.)
1.843 SSB for SOTA - 2 QSO‘s from 07:21z:
At the end of the CW session, I heard someone call in with QRS. This was Geoff G6MZX. After going back to him Farnsworth style a couple of times I heard no more so I fixed it with Roy on the 2m link to announce an SSB frequency in the hope that Geoff would see the spot. Geoff duly turned up on 1.843 and explained that he wasn’t confident enough to carry on with the CW QSO. After that Mark G0VOF called in again for a brief chat and to bag NP8 on 1.8 SSB. The four reports for these two QSO’s were 57. Since the microphone case is plastic there were thankfully no more RF burns. So thanks to Geoff we had a rare showing on Top Band SSB. 100 Watts once again.
7.115 CW - 15 QSO’s from 12:11z:
By 1pm BST NFD working was following the law of diminishing returns so I thought the time might better be used for SOTA. Again Roy G4SSH was contacted on 2m FM and kindly agreed to spot the QSY to HF. I also gathered from him that a QRP CW contest was making SOTA chasing difficult and that static crashes were also causing mischief. There was nothing I could do about the latter but after consulting the bandplan I had with me, choosing a QRG in the all modes section would address the problem of the crowded CW sub band. 7.115 was clear and what’s more it could be used for SSB later. (At one time I followed this technique regularly on 80m until some complaints were received.)
Stations worked on here were: G4SSH; GW4ZPL; DL1FU; M1EYP/P (S2S); DL2KAS; G0UBJ; G0TDM; DL6KVA; G4ZRP; EI2CL; F6FTB; GM4AXY; G0NES; ON9CBQ and G4OOE. Generally 40 to 50 watts were used but getting a report to DL6KVA Axel needed full power. Several attempts to do the same for Manfred DK7ZH failed I’m afraid. Tom M1EYP was located on Hutton Roof Crags G/LD-052 and we exchanged with good reports both ways. It never ceases to amaze me how easy Tom has made it look; to learn CW from scratch mainly for the purpose of better SOTA operating.
This wasn’t the most relaxing of sessions. My RF-burned fingers from the 160m CW escapade were sore on the key. Static crashes were regularly obscuring parts of callsigns and Murphy’s Law would often come into play so that when asking for repeats the same letter would get zapped every time! How Murphy manages this I’ll never know? Up since 3am, by 2pm I was quite tired and uncomfortable and the QSO rate was not of the best. Quite frankly I was relieved when there were no further takers.
7.115 SSB - 5 QSO’s from 12:58z:
About 40 Watts were used on here but only five stations were logged in 12 minutes: F1LPV Pascal; PA3FYG Hans; ON5EU Peter; MW0IML Barry and finally G0RQL Don.
144 SSB - 1 SOTA S2S at 14:06z:
These were the final sessions of the day, left until after the NFD contest had ended at 14:00z. Before changing the SOTA Beam polarization to vertical for use on FM, I received an alert from Colin G4UXH (I think) that M0UKD/P - op John, was located on Grisedale Pike (G/LD-015) and operating on 144.360 SSB. Thanks to Colin’s alert, John was duly called and worked for an S2S. This was the final SSB QSO of the day.
145.400 FM - 17 QSO’s for SOTA from 14:14z:
Roy G4SSH had done a fine job of spotting for me using a link to Irton on 145.400 but had struggled with my watery signal some of the time. Just for fun I aimed the horizontal beam due east and called him with 50 Watts. I think he got quite a surprise. With a big signal on 2FM, I worked 17 stations: G4SSH; 2E0CKS; M6DER; G1TAG; M3RDZ; G6XBF; 2E0WJC; M0JLA/P; M6BWA/P; G4ONG; G0HRT; M6GHL/P; M3UAG; G0WUY; G4CPA; G0STK & M0IOC/M. Also there was one known ‘earwigger’ in the form of my XYL Denise in Scarborough. I’d forgotten to switch my 2m rig off in the kitchen.
After working just two stations the second battery went flat and cut the rig off abruptly. A QSO with Ian M6DER in Rotherham was almost finished but he must have wondered at the sudden disappearance of the signal. By the time the third battery had been connected it was too late to get him back.
The QSO’s with Rod M0JLA/P & Vicky M6BWA/P (Rod’s XYL) were S2S’s with Kisdon G/NP-026 and I think Rob G0HRT/P was still on LD52 when I worked him. It’s a while since Geoff G4CPA (Crosshills) and John G1TAG (Osmotherley) called in for a chat. I also worked Geoff M6GHL/P who was H/H and walking somewhere in Wensleydale. Other stations were located in Barnoldswick, Burnley, Pudsey, Warrington, Scarborough, Welton (nr Hull), York and Shotton Colliery.
144 MHz SSB for VHF-NFD - 45 QSO‘s (plus 1 in CW):
For Field Day, the best option seems to be to dip into each band & work across it a couple of times, exchanging with all stations which can be heard. After that it’s a good idea to park on a spot and call CQ for a while on different beam headings until that ploy dries up. One advantage is that the latter gives SOTA chasers half a chance, rather than constantly trying to hit a moving target which must be infuriating at times. When fresh stations become hard to find, a QSY to another band without delay is the best recourse. You can always come back later to repeat the process after new stations have appeared.
In four separate sessions on 144 MHz SSB from 06:44z to 13:54z, I made 47 contest exchanges on 2m. In between were QSY’s to 4m FM and 70cm SSB. Most stations were G’s but also logged were: TM2K (Nr Arras, France - already with ser No 415 at 06:50z!) and ON4WY as well as the more routine Scotland and Wales in the form of MC0MRS/P. Germany was not heard by me this year and neither was PA. That said my attention was diverted to SOTA for possibly half of the time.
On one occasion I was called at the end of an exchange on someone else’s frequency and asked to QSY. As usual I worked IO93AD from IO94AD. G0VHF was not worked this year but I did have one CW NFD QSO with GI4GTY/P and heard one cross mode CW/SSB QSO going on. Goole Club members were in evidence again with their distinctive callsign G0OLE. Roy kindly spotted me on a fixed frequency of 144.230 which attracted SOTA chasers. 50 Watts to the SOTA Beam was used for all QSO’s.
At 702m ASL it seemed like GX0OOO had the highest perch in NFD once again, though I did come across GM6MD/P who had got himself to 697m on Windy Standard in D&G (GM/SS-071) albeit via a vehicle.
It’s disputable whether there were fewer stations than last year or about the same but to my mind, band conditions didn’t seem enhanced in any way. You can’t point a beam in every direction simultaneously but sometimes there were just four or five signals audible on the entire band and traffic was at best ‘steady.’ Signals did not seem to be squashed together or overlapping on 2m this time but if you have a big station the situation may appear entirely different. Quite a few SOTA chasers were logged in these NFD sessions. The most distant chaser was probably Don G0RQL.
Squares worked on 2m NFD: IO: 70; 74; 75; 81; 82; 83; 84; 91; 92; 93; 94. JO: 1; 2; 10; 11.
145 MHz FM for VHF-NFD - 1 QSO:
G4SSH in Irton. Power 5W from the VX150 to the vertical J-Pole. IO94SF.
432 MHz SSB for VHF-NFD - 11 QSO‘s:
At 11:08z the IC706 and 10 elements of my son Phil’s 18-ely Parabeam (which makes it better to carry, mount and rotate) became the new working condition. The 10 ely is also less ‘peaky’ to aim than the full beam, has half the boom length and is more stable in high winds. Stations already in the 144 log are eager to rework you on 432. The power used was 20W, which is the max available from the IC706 on 70cm.
Eleven ‘G’ & GM stations were worked for NFD along with EI9E/P in IO62OM. I did not choose to park on a single frequency on 70cm because of the more directional beam.
Squares worked on 70cm NFD: IO: 62; 70; 74; 83; 84; 92; 93; 94.
70 MHz FM for VHF-NFD - 9 QSO‘s:
Other than FM, I had no TX for this band. Though the IC706-2G can receive all modes on 70 MHz if you transmit you come out with about 30 Watts on the aircraft band. Not good! Not all the calls on here were intended for NFD working but the ops soon adapted. The half-wave vertical and ASL partly made up for the lack of power and one op remarked that, ‘NP8 is well to the east of the Pennines but the signal is getting over to the west quite efficiently.’ The aerial is simple in design. The basis of it is coax stripped of its shield to make the upper quarter wave. The lower quarter wave is formed of the coax shield choked off at the correct point by means of a coil.
Stations worked with this home-brew aerial & 3 Watts from an IC-E90 were as follows: M3RDZ in Burnley IO83US; G4BLH Mike near Nelson IO83VT; G4UXH Colin in Milnethorpe (South Lakes) IO84OF; G6CRV Dave in Lancaster IO84NB. Later on: MW1FGQ John in IO83IG; G8CME in IO83VT. M0NFD/P in IO94MJ and M0DTS in IO94IL. Finally M0IOK in IO93VT. These were worked in five time slots from 08:21z, 10:45z, 11:35z, 11:55z and at 12:50z. Thanks should go to Mike G4BLH for correcting the LOC on behalf of Roy M3RDZ.
Squares worked on 4m NFD: IO: 83; 84; 93; 94.
(Note: This full report may be reproduced or extracted for other websites/ publications as required.)
VHF-NFD on NP8; one of my favourite events (despite not ever putting an entry in) was over for the tenth year running. Radio station to rucksack took about 50 minutes to 17:09. The Wimbledon final on 5-live 909 kHz took my mind off the chore but just after reaching the car at 17:51 the match was over and our man Murray had lost but in 4 sets.
VHF NFD: 50W on 2m-SSB; 20W on 70cm & 3W on 4m-FM.
SOTA (typical): 100W on 160m CW/ SSB, 40W min on 40CW & SSB. 25W on 2m-FM. 5W for the 2m FM spotting link.
Battery Utilization (IC706-2G only):
Battery 1: One 13.2 Ah Li-Po - 100 % depleted 06:44z to 12:45z.
Battery 2: One 9 Ah Li-Po - 100 % depleted 12:58z to 14:24z.
Battery 3: One 8.6 Ah Li-Po - 50% depleted after 14 x 25W, FM QSO’s over 45 minutes.
27 Ah used from a total of 31 Ah. Total battery weight 2.4kg.
Non-Contest / SOTA
160m CW: 4
160m SSB: 2
40m CW: 15
40m SSB: 5
2m FM: 17
Total ‘SOTA’: 44
2m SSB: 45
2m CW: 1
2m FM: 1
70cm SSB: 12
4m FM: 9
Total (Contest): 68
Grand Total: 112 QSO’s.
Walking: 5.5 km (up & down) and approx 211m (692ft) of ascent. 45 min up - 42 min down.
Pack weight: 20kg, (44 lbs). (Reduced from 55 lbs 2008-09 and 63 lbs for campover 2011)
Drive home: 18:10 to 20:00 - on empty roads. This was SSEG’s/ G4YSS 10th successive VHF field day on NP8, Scarborough’s closest 2k at 63 miles line of sight and only 154 miles round trip by road.
68 serial numbers were given out in the contest on three bands; 2m SSB/CW, 70cm SSB & 4m-FM. The majority of contacts came from hunting up and down the band; a process which makes it almost impossible for SOTA chasers. However with good comms available to Roy’s (G4SSH) QTH, it became feasible to give chasers a chance by spotting and sitting on a single alerted frequency. This was done on 144.230 from 09:26z to 09:55z and again from 13:19z to 13:55. In these two sessions 26 stations were worked and many were SOTA chasers.
VHF Band conditions did not seem particularly raised in any way and band occupancy seemed much the same as last year when an overnight summit stay brought in 90 NFD QSO’s plus 84 for SOTA. As NFD stations go, a modest 3-ely horizontal Beam and 50W whilst an excellent performer and very light, was nothing to write home about by NFD standards but as much as I could carry along with everything else.
The highest incoming serial number of 415 came from TM2K and that was at 06:51z on 2m. My son Phil G0UUU had tried to work him the day before from HuMP Brow Hill G/HTW-003 and we were astonished to note that he had reached serial number 80 in the first hour of the contest! I don’t know how the continental contest relates to the UK NFD but that is truly an impressive QSO rate. ON4WY was giving out ‘322’ at 10:36z on 2m.
In Britain G5LK/P had reached 237 by 07:40z on 2m and G3VER/P gave me ‘280’ on 2m a few minutes later. These are probably serious multi op stations who go right through the night unlike ‘little me’ who is merely doing it for pleasure, for SOTA, to give out points and generally help to keep the contest going. I have no wish to undergo the bureaucracy of submitting a contest entry. At any rate I don’t think club callsigns are allowed.
As in previous years, one or two of the more distant ops initially got the callsign as GX0OO/P and that had to be corrected. Operating was friendly throughout and a few had time to give out further information regarding their QTH’s, especially when I offered the SOTA ref; as I try to do on all except marginal QSO’s. There were very few intances of accidental QRMing this year but one powerful station did seem to be spreading a bit when he was pointed my way.
Sure there are limits to the quality of aerials and other equipment that can be carried up NP8 but operating at over 2000ft goes some way to balancing that out. Great Whernside is a compromise between good radio paths up and down the east side of the Pennines and being relatively simple to climb from a 1500 foot parking spot with a big load. The peat readily takes the supports required for a reasonable station without guying. When you are alone and isolated, a constant worry is lightning. There was a low risk warning out for the two days of NFD this year but thankfully it failed to materialise on NP8 at least.
For SOTA the picture was different because many of the contacts were made on HF. Top Band really did well for the time of day, year and sunspot cycle, especially in the absence of Phil G4OBK. The summit was qualified with 160m CW alone but the reason for the RF burns needs further investigation. 160m SSB was a spot decision but it did the job in that Geoff G6MZX was able to work the summit.
Conditions on 40m were not brilliant from the propagation or noise viewpoints but the band did manage to add 20 QSO’s to the total. I hear that 40m failed completely both before and after NFD, probably due to a solar flare, so I was lucky on the day.
2m FM is a good banker for a few more contacts but out of the stations worked on there, it looked like over half were not SOTA chasers which makes things more time consuming. By that time of day I was getting rather weary and running out of chat. My punctured airbed did nothing for comfort on the lumpy surface and I spent my time moving from lying to sitting to kneeling positions and losing concentration during the QSO’s.
All in all a lot of pleasure is derived from NFD on NP8 year on year and I have only activated it once when it wasn’t NFD. That was an activation after dark, at Christmas time 2002. In 1996 my son Phil G0UUU and I activated it on 4m FM with a big Yaesu 40W PMR rig.
Thanks to all SOTA chasers and VHF-NFD contest stations for a really enjoyable day.
Thank you to spotters: Roy G4SSH, G0VOF, G4BLH. Spotting is valuable and much appreciated.
Special thanks to Roy G4SSH for manning the remote end of the 2m-FM link which optimised the whole operation.
73, John G4YSS
(using Scarborough Special Events Group callsign; GX0OOO/P).