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Helvellyn G/LD-003 report

What better way is there to end a day in work than to find out you’ve got two days off work and the weather will hold for both of them? That’s where I found myself on Tuesday, so along with my two housemates it didn’t take long to decide on a trip to the Lake District - hill to be chosen en-route. Neither Alec or Dave had ever bivvied before and I was determined to change that so with some reluctance both were persuaded to leave the tent and stoves behind. Instead, one bivy bag each (oversized bin-liners as they later described them) and with both still entirely unconvinced, we set off north in search of mountains.

Helvellyn is a mountain that none of us had been up before so that became our focus, however first priority was a chip shop in Windermere since none of us had eaten since breakfast. Suitably refueled we then made our way up to Glenridding just as the sun was setting.

The walk up the path seemed to go surprisingly quickly, maybe an advantage of seeing only a few meters with the headtorches. We decided to have a look around Red Tarn to check for midges before choosing it as a campsite. Still too early in the year for them so it would do nicely… a minute later the bivvies were out, down jackets were on (with the clear skies it was soon approaching freezing) and cameras were out for some night photography. The glassy smooth tarn, silhouetted mountains, clear skies, the Moon and Venus meant plenty of subjects so we had a good couple of hours playing before getting to sleep.

I woke a couple of times in the night with a cold nose and dead arm - there’s not much room to stretch out in a bivy - but got a good nights sleep overall. As the sky started to lighten I woke again and lay there for a good twenty minutes contemplating the pros and cons of staying in my sleeping bag vs. getting out and taking some photos. Eventually - grudgingly - the latter seemed the right thing to do so out I got. It was worth it! I gave Alec and Dave a poke too as the light created the most amazing colours on the tarn, the mountains and in the sky. Between us we took over 200 photos in total.

Breakfast was a Ginsters slice that had been in the fridge for far too long but tasted amazing anyway. Soon we were packed and again on our way. Striding edge was - to my thinking at least - surprisingly easy considering all I’d heard about it. Saying that the weather was perfect and the rock dry - there were plenty of crampon marks over the rocks and it would doubtless have been a whole new challenge with ice. Definitely one to revisit in the winter. We were soon on the top of Helvellyn - Alec snapping away happily while I got set up for some SOTA.

I’d brought up an Icom V80 and a Multi Function Dipole (MFD) so it took only a minute to bungee the antenna to the trig point. I started calling on 145.475 but got no response until Alan 2E0GYO replied to say my audio was extremely low. Thanks Alan! I was using a new waterproof speaker-mic, and talking with my lips actually touching the mic. seemed to solve the problem - point to remember in future.
Before I knew it I was getting calls left right and centre so thanks to everyone who spoke to me, or tried to, and especially to Dave M0TUB and Sue G1OHH for spotting me. I ran 2.5W throughout after some experiences with Ni-MH batteries dying quickly in the past (probably due to the cold), however this time with a Li-Ion battery there was no problem. I might go 5W in future - Li-ion batteries are definitely the way ahead!
I had 19 QSOs in total before Alec and Dave started looking a bit bored, therefore enough was enough, everything was packed away and down we went. We had a good chat with a gent as we were leaving who’d done almost all the munros plus lots of walking elsewhere in the world. His favorite - Liathach in Scotland - might be one of my next activations.

The walk down was uneventful, with Squirrel edge much the same as Striding edge in terms of difficulty. A couple sections where you need to use your hands but that’s about it. Very very picturesque! Before we knew it we were down and in to Ambleside for an ice cream and pub lunch.

Next time I might take the 817 for a play on HF too but I think the V80 and MFD is a nice combination for a quick activation when you’re with others. I’ve stuck my photos on to Flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/2w0nnn/sets/72157629686030153/ - plus a few of Alec’s showing me SOTAing in the middle.

Thanks again to everyone who gave me a call and who helped make a great couple of days even better through SOTA.

73,
Ioan

In reply to 2W0NNN:

That sounds like a really good mountain outing, with the activation the icing on the cake!

Liathach is a whole order of magnitude harder than Striding edge, there is a section of pinnacles (Am Fasarinan - the teeth) on the ridge between the two SOTA summits that are pretty hair-raising even though you can chicken out of several of them by using a narrow, gritty and very exposed path. If you attempt to do them direct watch out for one section that is best passed by sitting astride it like riding a horse! The exposure makes Striding edge look like a stroll in the park!

73

Brian G8ADD

In reply to 2W0NNN:
IOAN,
Thanks for a good report of a really nice way to do Helvellyn. Very adventurous. With the high quality camera gear you are seen carrying, helped by the WX we are having just now, your photos are terrific. I like the ‘hello’ photo but the views are just great. When I was there in 14th March, I met a group of about 18 young BAe apprentices at the top. They had been camping at Red Tarn too and had come up Striding in the cloud whilst I had taken the quicker Swirral. I could hear their voices across the way but viz was poor until the summit.
Thanks again for the inspirational report.
73, John

In reply to G4YSS & G8ADD:

Thanks both. I’ve just been having a look at Liathach on Wikipedia and Google Earth Brian - looks an awesome peak, looking forward to doing it now. 7.5 hour drive each way means it’ll be a weekend one!

It was good fun taking the photos. The ZX-1 is frustrating to use compared with a DSLR (small controls for frozen fingers) but the size and weight is a godsend. I was once told though that the best bit of kit for good photography is a decent alarm clock. You can’t help but get good photos if you’re up at sunrise!

73,
Ioan

In reply to 2W0NNN:

If you need it, Ioan, I put route descriptions for Liathach on Summitsbase. It is one of the most impressive peaks in Scotland, from the east it looks impossible but there is a steep path from just east of the car park at NG929579.

73

Brian G8ADD

In reply to G8ADD:

Cheers Brian, Summitsbase gives the carpark as NG934565 which I don’t see on an OS map but it’s visible on Google Earth. I’m guessing that’s the one you mean? I get NG929579 as being spot on the summit.

For anyone else interested in doing it there’s a video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFV9nmnsMxw

Something in the diary for Easter!!

In reply to 2W0NNN:
OOPS!!! Copied the wrong ref out of my little black book (actually its big and grey!) Yes, that is the parking place, the path is shown on the 1:25000 maps as a faint black dotted line starting by a stream a couple of hundred metres to the east, as I remember the mountain (I climbed it rather a long time ago) the paths are more a matter of looking for discoloured stones and linking cairns!

Good luck at Easter, my club has a meet at a bunkhouse at the foot of the Cairnwell Pass south of Braemar, whether I go depends on the availability of petrol!

73

Brian G8ADD