Lateish SOTA on Red Screes

On Saturday this weekend I braved the M6 closure on the way from Windermere to Southport for my eldest Daughter’s hockey match. With terrible weather in the Lakes that was OK but I was somewhat disappointed to find that the weather forecast for this Sunday had changed from ‘lovely but cold’ to ‘decidedly dodgy’.

Having dropped 2nd daughter off at a more local hockey match I ventured up to my normal lunchtime SOTA chasing spot of Queen Adelaide’s Hill for an hour - a rather grandiose title for a small hillock overlooking the centre of Lake Windermere. I’d taken the new-to-me FT-817ND, barefoot, and was very made up to get a FT-817 5w both-ways QSO with S51ITS sharing a summit with @S55X on S5/KS-024 Čofatijev and even better then another with Roberto EA2DXY on EA2/VI-023.

The opportunity presented itself after lunch for a quick summit grab as the weather had definitely improved. My go-to summits are Gummer’s How G/LD-050 and Red Screes G/LD-017 - the latter is much higher setting off from Kirkstone Pass (the highest pass in the Lake District) so this generally only gets picked when the cloudbase allows.

I always feel sorry for folk who aren’t hill walkers as they flock to the Kirkstone Inn but the view is actually a bit disappointing because of the narrow view between the hills. As you ascend the 45 minute stone staircase that is Red Screes via Kirkstone Pass the view slowly opens up. You notice the view due to frequent stops due to the punishing ascent.

As the footing changes from staircase to hillside, just before you reach the summit, you start seeing glimpses of the stunning view to the North East. If health and safety were involved there would be a guard rail on the other side of the trig point - the drop off is quite severe.

Trig-stone selfie done…

Following a two minute walk to a spot just slightly out of the wind I followed good practice of getting all my protective clothing on, then I setup a tarp shelter which did a good job of taming the biting winter wind.

I’m still getting to grips with summit shelters but this is a definite improvement over a bothy bag. I had taken the Decathelon 6m travel pole bought in Spain last year - it is about 1/2 the weight of the SOTABeams 10m compact mast. It seemed a bit hypocritical using the FT-817 with a heavy weight pole, and I’ve had good results with this 6m mast. Being light weight it seems to cope with higher winds really well compared to a standard 8m mast.

Starting on 20m I had enough to qualify but there appeared to be more QSB than earlier limiting QSOs. 40m gained me a couple more QSOs than 20m including a hard won S2S with OK7MCS on Spálený vrch who had persevered on my frequency with the QSB.

Not sure how much 80m is used in Europe - certainly it appears to be limited in appeal in North America. Now you’d think 5w with an inverted V dipole at 5m would be totally useless on 80m, but that wasn’t the case - 11 QSO’s confirmed this. The QSB was probably the worst however on 80m.

Finally, but not least, I stuck with the FT-817 dream and put the standard whip on and proceeded to get 10 2m QSOs in the log with the rig in between my knees. Only @GM4WHA Geoff in Annan got me on my feet to complete our over-the-hills QSO.

My two year hiatus without an FT-817 is over. Love this rig. I had bought a WorldPouch Power Port case first time around and have finally worked out how to use it and come to appreciate what a great case it is. It cost me an arm-and-a-leg in taxes and import duty, but it works really well (you need to use the rig ‘strapless’). I bought this case with the notion of pedestrian mobile, give it a couple of years and lots of sun spots and I’ll take a serious stab at it. In the meantime I have an additional battery in the pouch consisting of 3 x 18650 cells - extending the internal battery life considerably, without increasing weight significantly.

The descent was still in light, but always a bit scary in places.

Thank you to all the chasers - and activators! I hope to do a lot more SOTA and WOTA activations this year. Happy new year!

More photos.

Regards, Mark.


You made good use of the unexpected weather window, Mark. Nice case - I used a large camera case which did much the same job, fitting a diy AA battery pack in the long lens space.
We did the long walk from a layby near Brothers Water to avoid the vertiginous Kirkstone route - a great walk on a nice day as can be seen from your photo of the trig.
BTW - I have you in my log at 15:13 on 80m ssb 59 both ways.

Hi Rod

Thanks for pointing out the error - not sure how I missed you but you’re in my log and I’ll get the SOTA record updated accordingly.

The valley on the Ullswater side of Kirkstone is stunning. Not got to Middle Dodd yet but I’ll do it one of these days, should be an interesting Wainwright to get contacts on as it is surrounded by higher hills.

Cheers, Mark.

Mark, thanks for the interesting report. I’m only sorry I didn’t see your alert and spot in time to chase you. No matter, you got plenty of contacts.

You did well to activate on HF in January especially as there’s next to nowhere to shelter from the wind. I did Red Screes last September and it was bitterly cold then. Interesting comment about using a tarp rather than a bothy bag. I assume it’s quick to pitch. Do you sit or lie down in it, I wonder? I found my bothy bag thinks it’s a kite and wants to fly away. I need a quick-to-deploy man-made solution for prolonged (usually HF) activation in winter weather for when there’s no natural shelter at the summit.

I thought the ascent of Red Screes was a bit ‘technical’ in places (having to use your hands) and was amazed to meet an American visitor on my descent going up with his 5-year old daughter – she was amazing and shows what kids can do. He did say he carried her on the hard bits (he was young and fit).

Re 80m, I suppose you probably had reduced D-layer absorption mid-afternoon in mid-winter but that’s good going with 5W SSB on a compromise antenna. I rarely take my 80m dipole on activations. I find my 40/30/20m EFHW works on 60m especially if I can get it up a bit higher – maybe I should try it on 80m sometime – the KX2 internal ATU works wonders normally.

I also like you FT817 go-bag. I waste a lot of time getting my KX2 set up and would like something similar.

73, Andy

Many thanks for the excellent report Mark. Oh, to have such a local summit as Red Screes… I don’t even have a local summit! It certainly looked like a fine day for activating despite the wind. Somewhat different to a decade ago…

73, Gerald

1 Like

That’s a brilliant photo Gerald, did you take the path up from the Inn to get there? That must have taken some careful footsteps?

I do appreciate where I live, every day Gerald.

Regards, Mark. M0NOM

Yes,err well that was our intention, but when we arrived at the parking spot we couldn’t actually find the start of the steps with it being early and new snow having fallen. Not having sufficiently accurate GPS devices, our attempt at following it on the map went awry and we ended up somewhat off-piste. Part way up I was fortunate to locate a route most likely prepared by others the previous day which was still visible, but it was still very tricky. Paul (G4MD) was unfortunately not in a position to join me as he had moved to the other side of an outcrop. Having just purchased a new ice axe, he chose a slightly different route and ended up cutting his own steps through the snow. It was quite some ascent. Needless to say, by the time we had completed our activations, the whole population of Cumbria had visited the summit and the route down was clear as daylight, even though it was rather slippery.

I would like to tackle it in full winter gear at some point. My first ever activation was Red Screes on 28-DEC-2016, and indeed I had done very little walking in the Lake District at that point. I followed a group up into the mist, didn’t really have views but loved every minute of it. Here are a couple of photos of the antenna - this shows how new I was to this all! I also learnt a thing about hypothermia and Rime Ice as well!

1 Like

Andy, I setup the tarp tall-and-thin so was able to sit up in the centre. I’m quite sure there is a better way of setting it up too. Bothy bags are great but not very ergonomic when it comes to radio - slipping in and out of the tarp was very easy. You are protecting yourself from the wind, and possibly rain, but not helping with warmth compared to a bothy bag.


1 Like

You need a patented COX-A-TARP setup as invented as used by Jack GM4COX. The tarp is integral to the fishing pole supporting the vertical with sloping radials. Radials support the pole and tarp. Ask Jack for photos. @GM4COX

Thanks for the tip Andy.

I was reviewing different tarps and watching various tarp-setup YouTube videos quite soon after reading Mark’s report. I want to be able to locate the antenna pole and the tarp independently (for several reasons).

And with my lust for instant gratification I’ve already ordered a 2.8m x 1.5m tarp with loads of reinforced fixing holes (DD Tarp S – Ultralight). I don’t use a walking pole so I’m also getting two extendable bivi poles, one to be vertical at the open end, the other at an angle at the closed end to give a bit of height there. I’ve got a small ground sheet to sit on.

I look forward to trying it out, somewhere low risk - like the back garden – prior to the next HF winter activation.

That’s a tricky one isn’t it. I know I won’t carry the bothy bag AND the tarp/bivi poles. Probably, I’ll take the bothy bag when I’ve already decided the weather is too bad for a prolonged activation so I’m doing a short VHF/UHF activation. OR, it’s windy [like today on Whitfell G/LD-032 where I had difficulty standing up in the wind at the summit] or raining or both. Or, it’s a lovely sunny summer’s day and I take neither (although even then I could have done with the tarp a few times when I was getting hot in direct sunlight).

It’s a risk what ever choice one makes. As Brian @G8ADD pointed out on another thread, the mountain rescue service apparently is called out to more heart-attack cases then ones of hypothermia.

For me the opposite is true. I always carry both and usually deploy the tarp as protection from the elements or just as a sheet to lay the kit out on when it is a fine, dry and calm day. In over 600 activations I have never used the bothy bag to operate from, though I must admit it did cross my mind on GM/SS-052 Dun Rig last month. I carry it to provide protection should anything untoward happen. Murphy’s Law will dictate that should I break a leg, then it will be where there is no phone signal, no chance of using radio to summon help and a storm will have just arrived!

Hi Gerald,

I knew someone would counter with this argument. So, you carry the bothy bag even in the hottest, driest weather? You see, I don’t. Nor my over-trousers or winter jacket, hat and gloves. I don’t carry a full first-aid kit on small-hill activations either.

I do an informal risk assessment for each activation based on the weather forecast, time of year / hours of daylight, the summit, the route and solo/non-solo and select the appropriate kit to pack. That’s not as risk adverse as carrying everything every time. What is for certain, the big extra weight affects my walking experience and (at my age) my knee joints.

Yes, I ended up going up Kilnshaw Chimney which was “interesting” in winter condition!

We could have looked for it on our next expedition further North :rofl:

1 Like

Indeed. For every argument there is a counter-argument. All I can say is that it works for me!

Yes. Hot dry days are often followed by very cold cloudless nights. I’m on blood thinners, so it would be daft not to have shelter with me.

Well I wear Paramo trousers with side vents, so they are suitable for all of the year. Indeed I find them cooler than standard walking trousers in the summer. The same goes for my Paramo jacket, so I don’t have summer and winter garments. The need for a hat and gloves is weather dependent. In summer I tend to wear a buff to keep the sun off… when it shines up in Scotland. :grinning:

Well being on the medication that I am I would be daft not to carry one. An accidental gash from a jagged rock or barbed wire needs attending to quickly.

As for carrying all of this kit on every activation, well the penalty is little more than a kilo so it makes no real difference to me: 4’ x 6’ tarp 208g, 2 man bothy bag 460g, first aid kit 400g. I carry quite a lot of radio kit anyway and I know the difference wouldn’t be noticed. I do have a 6’ x 8’ tarp for longer stays such as on the S2S events.