Thanks for the nice comments. I expect Jimmy will log on later to respond himself.
This was a SOTA outing with a difference. Fellow member of the Macclesfield & DRS Greg M3RXX, had managed to negotiate a number of places for us on an organised coach trip to Coniston for walking enthusiasts employed at Macclesfield Hospital. At a tenner a head, it was cheaper than diesel, more environmentally acceptable and afforded the possibility of doing G/LD-013 as a day trip. This distance is beyond what I would normally consider driving in a day either side of a significant walk, so to have the luxury of someone else doing the driving was appealing.
The radio contigent on the coach comprised Greg M3RXX and family, Sean 2E0BAX and family, Tom M1EYP & Jimmy M3EYP, and Richard G3CWI and daughter Mai Ling. We left the hospital car park shortly after 8am, and maps and route descriptions were passed around. We initially planned to break from the main group and strike directly for the summit. However, it was soon clear that the recommended circular route was a cracker, and we decided to go for that with a possibly shorter break for activating on the summit.
We walked out of Coniston village at 11.00am BST, and I whispered to Jimmy to set a cracking pace up the steep Walna Scar Road. Sean and Greg, and Greg’s son Liam were soon feeling the pain and were looking “mildly surprised” at the difference between this and their only previous SOTA ascents of The Cloud G/SP-015 and Raw Head G/SP-016. This was a steep and tough section, and I too was finding it hard work, but the macho side of me tried its best to avoid showing this to Jimmy who was pressing on with determination and Mai Ling who was skipping along seemingly not feeling a thing.
Once at the car park, the track levelled out and the walk became very pleasurable. Instead of turning right to ascend through the old quarry, we continued on the Walna Scar Road before eventually turning right and up to Goats Water. Across the water, some rock climbers were making their way up Dow Crag. We sat on some large flat rocks by the path and had our first portion of Lentil & Bacon soup, and a Cadbury’s Brunch Bar.
Getting going again for the climb up to the ridge, I soon slipped to the back of the field, as it seemed that Greg, Sean and Liam had now acclimatised to mountain walking. Richard and Mai Ling led the way to the saddle, while Jimmy refused to put up with walking with me at the back, and moved quickly through the field in Michael Schumacher-esque style.
Jimmy and myself then resumed the lead, and pressed on around to the summit. The paths became less defined, and soon we were having to cut up the steep grassy slopes to refind the proper path. The large summit cairn came into view, but the Sotacache didn’t - one that got away.
I started to set up on the Coniston Water side of the hill, a few metres down from the summit and a few away from the path. I set up my SOTA Beam ready for Sean to attach his 817 to for the 2m station to be shared by Sean, Greg and Jimmy. For myself, I set up the 40m dipole, and was grateful to have the expertise and practical know-how of Richard on hand when one leg snapped off!
Everything went to plan, and Jimmy, Sean and Greg all made plenty of contacts each on 2m FM. Jimmy was pleased with the congratulations and attention he was getting for his 100th SOTA Unique activation. I made 9 contacts on 40m CW, with activity seemingly rather low. Richard had already qualified the summit on 2m FM, using his handheld at the summit cairn. As we were playing radio, many others from our coach trip, and others too, walked past having topped the hill. At 3.00pm, we posed for a couple of group photos, and got packed away. The first part of the descent was familiar territory down steeply through the old quarry workings, before swinging to the left to overlook the valley containing the youth hostel and follow the river down to the village.
The first evidence of the village was the Sun Hotel, which was the party’s rendezvous point. There was over an hour to spare before dinner, so we relaxed in the gardens with pints of Coniston Bluebird and Hawkshead ales, while comparing notes and experiences of the walk. Somewhat amazingly, given the menacing skies and dismal forecasts, it had remained bone dry all day, and we were all pleased with our good fortune in this respect. The meal of steak & ale pie with chips and veg was very good and substantial, albeit rather pricy. The coach departed on time and dropped us off in Macclesfield bang on the advertised 10.00pm time. A well-organised outing, and we are looking to join any future ones - that involve SOTA summits!