Rather than a formal report this is a slightly “Tongue in cheek” review of the weekend, and to save lots of skim reading the doggy stuff is in the last paragraph. This covers Great Gable (G/LD-005) Kirk Fell, (G/LD-015) and on the next day Great Mell Fell (G/LD-035).
(c) OS Media 018/21. (Can’t find the 22 ref)
Saturday morning dawned bright and early and I managed to walk both the dogs and get out for 7AM for what was a 90 min journey to the start of the walk, Honister. As I drove along the A66 the car made its winter 3 C bong and in some places there was a ground frost. Useful hint 1 - Just off the A66 at Penrith (NY 50389 28639) is a quite well hidden Greggs which is provides a nice, high cholesterol start to the day whilst leaving the wallet mostly intact…. So having made a 10 min stop for breakfast I arrived a quiet roads at Honister to easily find a space in the National Trust Car Park - which if you are not a member costs almost as much as accidentally leaving a lightbulb on for an hour.
Last week the entire family want down with what I assume was Norovirus which on the positive side resulted in a 48 hr fast, which I understand can be expensive in a health resort, but it did make the climb up to Grey Knotts seem rather longer. I just had Woody with me on this one and he was quite happy to give me a “tight lead” and encourage me up to the summit.
On the way roundI checked the return route via “Moses Trod” which contours around Gable and Grey Knotts and I was pleased to see the path was obvious.
The Climb from Windy gap up to Gable was short and steep, and the walking poles went away so I could use my hands, but it was not difficult and Woody kept up easily. Once at the summit I set up about 50m to the North to try and avoid the crowds, and managed a long run on both 2m and 40m. 2m was so busy it was like going back in time and I struggled to find a clear frequency! ( I can remember the 80’s…)
The next part of the walk could best be described as a “Sub Optimal” route choice as rather than retrace my steps I decided to take the direct route to Kirk Fell, and being aware of the crags to the N if anything I edged towards the W. What followed would have been enjoyable a) If I was 30 years younger and b) if I didn’t have a dog on tow. It is a long loose scree slope so those people watching from Beckhead would have been treated to what probably looked like a pensioner picking his way down the slope, which took me nearly an hour. In practice it was quite hard as I was very aware of Woody, and wanted him behind me so if I knocked a rock it would not land on him, so this led to me inching forward with one arm out front with a walking pole for stability and the other arm making sure Woody was safely behind me. It would be fair to say that Woody was less than impressed with my route choice and on reaching the level ground that did not slide away under his feet at Beck Head he completed a little dance of relief….
Useful Hint 2 Unless you enjoy scree running it is probably faster to go back to Windy gap rather than slide down the NW slope of Gable…. And if you do decide the NW slope of Gable is for you the easiest route is down the ridge which is not obvious from above, but is really obvious from the bottom….
A steep way off Gable
Kirk Fell, after the decent of Great gable was very uneventful. There seemed to be fewer contacts still on summits but once again I tried 2m and 40m and quickly had a log book quite full of stations. I even managed a ground wave contact on 40m with Scafell Pike, I think with a good pair of binoculars the orange Sota flag on the mast could probably have been seen from the summit! By now it was starting to get cold so set off back to the car with the path round the base of Gable being really easy to walk and well defined and arrived back at the car to set off driving at about 5-30.
Great Gable from Kirk Fell
Time to go says Woody…
I was worried, would I be too early for the pub? There is no phone signal at Honister so I pulled over further down Borrowdale to get the route, and there seemed to be a software issue as it suggested that Windermere, or more specifically the beer and burger at The Brookside was apparently 2 hours away…how could this be right it was only 20 miles…. It was right. iI spent ell over an hour queuing by the side of Derwentwater - roadworks in Keswick…
Sunday - what to do - my first outing with both dogs so it had to be an easy hill and preferably a quiet one as I was concerned that the volume of barking of a dogs might be at least a square or even cubed relationship to the number of dogs, could I get an ASBO in the Lake District?
Plan “A” was Dodd Fell Hill, but on reflection I decided that Great Mell Fell was an easy drive, and now I knew which footpath existed (Useful hint 3 the map isn’t always right… Great Mell Fell activation and a realisation) it would be an easy walk to the top. Well the boys were on form and I was very enthusiastically assisted to the summit by Woody and Jet.
It turns out that two dogs do not make more noise than one, indeed they were fairly quiet, although untangling a 40m dipole wrapped around five pairs of legs was a bit of a battle. Once again I activated on 2m and 40m and filled the log nicely although I do have an intermittent issue on 2m - which is probably a fault in by home brew J pole - loose connection?
Great Mell Fell - with the dogs removed from the Antenna Knitting!
Equipment - VHF Yaesu FT 270 into a J-Pole at about 5m. HF Elecraft KX2 internal battery into a linked dipole (60/40/20/17/15) - just operated on 40m due to time constraints. Mast - Sotabeams tactical mini - which I guyed on the summits although it was a bit hard finding anywhere to put a tent peg on Gable! Maps - Carried compass and 1:25000 map but also use the OS maps app - Useful Hint No 4 - the OS Maps app now has the ability to share a location with Apple Maps or Google Maps so it is easier to get directions to a car park / roadside for the start of a walk.
Dogs. This is probably the paragraph that you have just skipped to.
Yes I’m the SOTA operator that isn’t primarily identified by a callsign but the barking of his Springer Spaniel Woody, and several operators know Woody’s name but not mine! We have had Woody for just over three years and he as completed most activations with me and he walks well, if a bit pully at times. The compromise I find works best is a lead that is a waist belt so he is hands free. He wears a harness which allows me to lift and lower him - for instance over a wire fence. He has got good recall, but can get distracted and is a lot faster than I am so he stays attached for both my sanity and the safety of the wildlife. Woody barks at the summit - I don’t know why, but it did occur to me as I walked off of Kirk Fell that Woody is treating me like a toddler on a rein, I might think I am taking him for a walk but Woody knows he is taking me for a walk…. Thankfully indoors Woody is much better behaved and while in the pub he only managed one small woof and by about 9PM he was ready for bed!
We recently acquired a second dog - Jet. Jet is failed Gun Dog and was trained as a “fetcher” fetching the Grouse that have been shot by people with too much money to spend, however he developed a taste for Grouse - which at about £120 each was a rather expensive taste and his previous owner was going to shoot him, and we are a bit of a soft touch…… So Sunday was my first activation with two dogs - both attached to a long elasticated lead and it mostly worked although I did feel that more training is required and I’m fairly sure that if a pheasant appeared I would have been taken in the direction of the pheasant. On the summit the biggest problem was Jets attachment “Disorder”. I don’t know what has happened to him in the past - he flinches at times as if he has been hit, but he is desperate for attention so if at times during my activation of Great Mell Fell I sounded distracted it might have been because 20Kg of Spaniel was now sat on my lap and between me and the pencil and logbook, and as you may have gathered trying to deal with mast, antenna and two dogs was a bit challenging!
And Finally - Thanks to Mark again for organising this weekend and to all the chasers who make it worthwhile. 73 Paul, Woody and Jet…. ( Or should that be Woody, Jet and Paul)