M1BUU/P Whernside G/NP-004

I woke at 0530 and was at Skipton McDonalds before 0630 for a bagel, porridge and coffee en-route to the parking place on the road from Thornton in Lonsdale. My plan was to activate Great Coum G/NP-011 and then Whernside G/NP-004.

The weather forecast was for high winds and risk of hail/snow later on. I was just passing through the last gate in the car when all of a sudden it started raining and this was followed by intense hail. I was ready to chuck in the towel before I’d even begun! I decided to scrap Great Coum straight away as I find the walk tedious and it would be miserable in hail and wind. I made the decision to wait for a while to see of the weather improved and then attempt to activate Whernside. I told myself that I’d sit out the hail for up to 30 mins in the car before calling the whole thing off. What a difference 10 minutes made! Whernside was go!

Besides the icy wind biting at my face, the ascent wasn’t too bad really, there was actually some bright sky to be seen at times. I had downloaded the entire collection of 100 watts and a wire podcast to my MP3 player, so I listened to episode 1 and the summit seemed to be gained in no time at all.

As in previous weeks, I erected the mast to only four sections, I guess around 4m / 12ft, I really didn’t want to risk putting the pole up any higher. I tried to get out of the wind by sheltering behind the hill but I only had limited success. I was perfectly warm inside my bothy bag, my down vest remained in the pack. I chose to use my second MTR, serial number 267 as I had upgraded the RX a while back and not actually tried it out yet.

I had one major problem, I could not hear my radio over the noise of the wind and flapping of my shelter. I struggled to hear my sidetone, let alone calling chasers. I apologise to all who thought I was being a Lid, it really was very difficult to make out calls despite good signals and most of the time I was sending ‘blind’ because I could not hear the sidetone! I didn’t want to miss anybody out so I persevered until I had no more callers an then went QRT.

When I emerged from the bothy bag, I was amazed to see the amount of ice build up on the mast and guying lines. The rime on the dipole elements was about 5mm thick! This after about 25 mins!

Ice remained even after winding up the dipole elements.

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9 points in the bag :smiley:

I didn’t trust the effectiveness of my dipole for another activation, so due to a reflector topic by Phil G4OBK, I decided that if the weather stayed OK, I’d try an activation of Cracoe Fell G/NP-032 using my ‘in case of emergency’ FT-60 handheld. I had to take a minor detour to my usual route home, but the journey was pleasant enough.

I took the same route up Cracoe Fell as Phil G4OBK describes in his recent blog post. Just as I was leaving my car, I checked SOTAwatch on my phone and noticed that Simon G4TJC had been spotted on Cracoe fell on 28MHz CW. I kept an eye out for Simon on the ascent and kept my handheld switched on. As I was approaching the summit, I checked my phone and discovered that the spot for Simon was an error and actually he’d been on Sharp Haw G/NP-029.

I assume the hill in the distance is G/SP-005 Pendle Hill.

I managed to squeak out 4 QSO’s on 2FM using a 1/4wave whip, including a contact with Mark G4MEM/M who was heading towards Litton to activate Birks Fell G/NP-031.

Job done, 140pts away from Mountain Goat!

I’d got about halfway back to the car when I met Simon G4TJC on his way up. We had chat for a few minutes about CW rigs and then I wished him good luck and continued to the car.

First job after arriving home was to hang the dipole up to dry. My second job was to have a hot bath to try and warm up a bit!

I’ve thought about the low audio problem before on the MTR rigs, I came up with an idea for a self contained audio amp in an Altoids tin. The Altoids tin could also house the power source, a PP3 battery. Does anyone have any suggestions? I was thinking of maybe a bog standard LM386 circuit with a potentiometer for level control. An Altoids sized unit would be very packable.

73, Colin


Hi Colin

Good read as usual, amazing looking at your weather. While here in VK6 we are having around 42C for 4-5 days in a row this week, looking at a cool 31C for the weekend :slight_smile: . Keep up the good work.

73 John VK6NU

Hi Colin

the LM386 would produce plenty of audio - possibly too much if you just need headphone level audio. assuming the purplish wires go to your headphones, there may be an alternative chip that drives your phones better than a speaker type amp intended for 8-16 ohm output. Might get better battery life too.

More soundproof headphones might also provide a solution… might be bulky tho.

(envious of the MTR but not the weather) well done for persisting in those conditions.

73 Andrew vk1da/vk2uh

Hi Colin,

well done on your activation. You’re getting closer to Mountain goat despite the severe weather conditions, hurray!

I can not contribute with a solution for the MTR audio low level, but just wanted to confirm issues with that.
In a past activation, I took wrong earphones (impedance too far from specs) and the audio level was soooo little that I struggled to catch the callsigns or my own audio. It was a very bad situation, but I was lucky it was not windy at least and I could proceed!
Back home I checked MTR with several earphones I had and many of them were not suitable for MTR; it’s a bit demanding.

Hope you can try and post a solution, I’d be very welcome.
Good luck and please be safe on hills, VY 73 de Ignacio

Great report Colin,
You did well under the circumstances. Maybe it would have been better nearer the wall but sometimes the wind is going right down the wall direction giving nothing in the way of shelter.

I have some noise cancelling headphones which work well for listening to the radio while walking beside main roads but I never tried them for SOTA. They are not nearly as bulky as the old fashioned stereo headphones and they weigh 148 grams including one AAA battery which powers them. I got them from Maplin more than 10 years ago more like 15. They do work to a large extent but whether they would cure all your noise problem is debatable.

A few times I have looked up to see my mast bent into an inverted ‘U’ shape with the dipole on the ground due to ice accretion. The mast is home brew carbon rod and I doubt whether a telescopic would put up with that. You need to periodically walk the dipole and drag gloved hands along to get the wire size back to what it should be. Freezing fog is the worst for that.

Thanks for the report and photos,
73, John G4YSS

I think I’d rather have the ice, snow and wind compared to temps in the 40’s!

I do have a pair of JVC headphones that seem to be sensitive and have good ear sealing, I really ought to give them a try. There’s no excuse really as the cans fold inwards too making them easy to pack! I’ll take them next time.

I have an LM386 in my parts store so I’ll have to investigate designs. I know that others have thought that the MTR audio is low and it’s possible to modify the gain of the LM386 used in the MTR AF gain stage. I don’t like modding rigs too much, I think it would be better to have an external solution.

73, Colin

FB report and photos Colin. There was me having a chill day watching football on television when I could have been chasing a rare call sign on VHF!

I have always ascended Cracoe Fell the longer route via the Rhylstone Cross. I’m curious as to how you, Phil or anyone finds the other ascent? How is it under foot ect

73 Chris M0RSF

If you are also looking to add extra audio filtering at the same time as increasing the audio level, the BHI ANEM mk II “Noise Away” box has some amplification and a setting for headphones or speaker in it (as well as 7 levels of filtering).

It’s not cheap though!


73 Ed.

Fine business Ed.

Personally I find the MTR audio quality one of the nicest I’ve heard. I wouldn’t want a different response, just a higher level of response!

I’ve seen some electric guitar amps that might be re-purposed, they’re intended for solo practice using headphones to avoid irratating parents, neighbour’s etc :smile:

Doing a comparison at work today, the banded ‘on-ear’ phones that I have cut out a lot of the general noise of the factory.

John, I could have moved nearer to the wall I guess but I was attempting to shelter the pole from the wind in the lee of the hill, putting personal comfort last - I can’t activate if the antenna won’t stay up. I’d like to try some noise cancelling headphones at some point.

Chris, the route up the lane was fine. There was a little bogginess at the bottom of the hill but nothing we’re not used to in the NP region. Rest of the route was firm.

  • Colin

The Pennines: 31,000 sq. km of bog worked up into a lovely black goo by a few 100,000 walkers. So no worse than we’re used to! Even on the lower slopes whilst talking to Colin I had to brace myself against the wind though. Higher up it became quite challenging. Fortunately dropping back from the edge of the escarpment provided a good degree of shelter, so I was able to erect the antenna to a respectable height.

It was good chatting with you Colin.


Keep an eye on the local ALDI offers, they have some quite good noise limiting headphones at a “reasonable” price, at least when compared to SONY and others.

73 Ed.

Won’t the impedance be all wrong for those?

I did have a play with a class D audio amplifier module, with a view to maximizing efficiency. But I didn’t pursue this as there was so much hash to tame.

Hi Colin, congrats on these tough activations.

Are you referring to the sensitivity mods announced on the ATSprint reflector? I have not implemented these on mine.

As for the low output, I thought about the implementing the audio stage x10 gain (simple mod) and using a in-line vol. control. I normally use my MTR with the iphone 4 headphones (or similar low impedance) and are ok most of the time. This would not have helped in such a conditions - where you needed many dB of isolation to the outside world.

73 Angel


I enjoyed the chat but didn’t want to keep you from your activation too long. Hopefully we’ll see each other at a rally and have a good chat out of the elements!

The guitar amps I’ve seen have aux inputs intended to be used for piping in a backing track to play along to. I haven’t investigated at all, but I’d think that the impedance would be acceptable or at least workable! Just an avenue to explore. The amps are appealing because they have built in rechargeable batteries.

Hi Angel.

The mods I did to both #131 and #267 was to change the RX BPFs to the MTR-5B values. The MTR-5B are very slightly different to the MTRv2 values I seem to think.

I injected a signal into the antenna port this time and aligned the filters using an oscilloscope to measure the peak. All the filters peaked at around the same level, whereas previously the levels differed a bit.

I changed one SMD resistor on each rig as part of the earlier suggested mod but I’m not sure if this has made any difference. I didn’t do the LM386 gain mod.

I’m happy with both rigs now, they seem to play really nicely.

I haven’t had a play with a 3 band MTR but I’ve heard reports that the sensitivity on 17m is poor. What I can say is that in my opinion the MTR-5B is pretty consistent in performance from 40m to 15m, and by consistent, I mean good!

I was a bit nervous taking one of ‘my babies’ to pieces but all worked out well in the end. :smile:

73, Colin