Nintendo Playcoins & Long Walks

So, how did Jimmy M3EYP and I manage to complete the G/SB SOTA region, with Liam in tow? The fact that we did seems to come as something of a surprise to some fellow activators. Well, it did to us as well. Liam has done many different SOTA expeditions with us over the years, but has tended to be omitted from the expedition team for the more serious and strenuous stuff. There have been exceptions, such as Snowdon GW/NW-001 (up Pyg Track, down Miners Track) and Waun Fach GW/SW-002, as well as participation in last summer’s camping holiday where we activated 22 summits in G/DC, G/SC and G/CE.

Jimmy and I had only activate one G/SB summit, this being The Cheviot G/SB-001 on the final day of our Pennine Way walk of 2006. Uswayford to Kirk Yetholm

So we had seven left to do, from G/SB-004 through G/SB-010. (Hedgehope Law G/SB-002 and Cushat Law G/SB-003 were culled from the SOTA programme after only five days due to suffering a similar fate in the definitive Relative Hills of Britain list of P150 summits).

Research informed me that only one of the summits - Ros Hill G/SB-009 - was a trivial short walk. All the rest were either lengthy, or steep, or both. Hence why the long term planning for this trip had been for Jimmy and myself only. However Marianne’s work schedule meant that we could not leave Liam behind, so I decided to cancel the trip. Upon learning of this decision, Marianne informed me that we darned well were going, as planned, and taking Liam with us. And what a brilliant insistence that turned out to be!

Sighty Crag G/SB-005, 520m ASL, 5.9km each way

We set off, a little later than intended, around 9am on Wednesday 27th July 2011, after picking up Jimmy’s mate Craig from Bollington, who was keen to join us again for a SOTA camping trip. Decent progress was made up the M6, as far as Southwaite services, where Jimmy reckoned there would be a map shop from where we could get the OS Explorer 1:25000 sheets we needed. He said we did so from there when we activated Cold Fell G/NP-020 some considerable time ago!

Of course, he was right. This service area has a large Tourist Information Centre, and offers many services including a comprehensive selection of OS maps for sale. Sadly, the route for Sighty Crag needed three new maps as the long walk-in was not fully contained within one or even two sheets. So having parted with a considerable sum of money for six new Explorer sheets and some Scottish tablet, we were on our way again.

We exited the M6 at J43 and drove into Brampton where we partook in haggis and chips for lunch. Craig suddenly remembered that he had forgotten to pack a towel, so I dived in a gear shop and got him a hiking towel for £1.99! Jimmy then directed me on the minor raods from Brampton to The Flatt, and then down a track to the parking spot at NY561784 near The Loan, as recommended by the excellent SOTA SB region website -

Although they tend to be long walks, at least those summits with an initial approach via forest rides allow you to get well into your stride before any greater challenge or gradient. This particular meandering looping forest road took us a great distance to the sharp bend in the track at NY587808, near Twolads Crag.

We now veered right over much rougher ground under under trees to the edge of the forest, where it was necessary to stride over the unbarbed section of fence and scramble steeply up Long Bar Ridge to the right. It was a hot day and this was a rather sheltered spot, so Liam and I got attacked mercilessly by waves of midges as we struggled to catch up with Craig and Jimmy!

We met a party of walkers shortly after, and they would be the only people we would meet all day on this fell. After negotiating our way across the stream and marshy area either side of it, we then faced an energy-sapping trudge up tussocky moorland. The gradient was trivial, but the going was slow. After what seemed like an eternity, we arrived at the two trig points - a good one, and a broken one beside it on the floor.

Liam perched himself on a rock and announced that he had earned 10 Nintendo Playcoins on his 3DS console. It turned out that his new 3DS - his main birthday present from June - has a pedometer built in, which rewards in playcoins which may be exchanged for items from the Nintendo shop. Liam spent his on ‘heroes’ which in could deploy in the various games he was playing to boost his chances of success. It became clearer how he had completed a long ascent without groaning or slowing down!

Jimmy worked on 2m FM, making 6 contacts, while I logged 15 QSOs on 40m CW. Jimmy’s included two S2S, these being Bobby G7GAX/P on Skiddaw G/LD-004 and 2E0JOH/P on Pillar G/LD-006. There was no need to be hanging around playing radio, for we were being attacked again by the midges, and still had a long walk and long drive ahead of us, not to mention a campsite to secure. We got on with it.

After the two hour descent, we were back on the road and following Jimmy’s directions along country lanes to Bonchester Bridge. My car was nearly out of diesel, so a garage became the priority. Nothing at Bonchester Bridge, so it was fingers crossed that the fumes would power us to Jedburgh. They did, and that was something of a relief.

Then there was a revisit to Town Yetholm, first time since the end of the Pennine Way Road Trip in 2010, and then onto Wooler. Despite arriving at 9.30pm at Highburn House campsite, we managed to get a pitch and got the tent up in good time. We were down in Wooler looking for food at 10.40pm, and after being initially refused, some careful persuasion got us a table for four in the Indian restaurant. The lamb tikka biryanis and Kingfisher beers went down very well indeed, before we headed back to the tent for some much needed sleep.

Thanks to everyone who called us on the activation.


After the exertions of the previous day, it was important to begin the second SB tour day with something with a greater reward-to-effort ratio. Cue the easiest summit of the region:

Ros Hill G/SB-009, 315m ASL, 0.5km each way

We commenced Thursday 28th July 2011 by going to a cafe in Wooler for a cooked breakfast. I departed from the usual to have a delicious filled omelette and a coffee. Bellies satisfied, Jimmy reveted to JimNav mode and directed me through Chillingham and Hepburn to close to the highest point of the road at NU079249. I parked on a wide grass verge and followed Jimmy, Liam and Craig up the short path that contoured gradedly around the steep-flanked summit.

The summit was pleasant with a nice grassy area by a tall wall to sit, relax and enjoy the views while activating. There was enough of a breeze to keep the midges away, which was appreciated by all! I was surprised when Liam told me he had earned 4 Nintendo Playcoins. No way was this walk anywhere near 40% of the Sighty Crag walk!

It was the usual working conditions for Jimmy and I, 2m FM and 40m CW respectively. Contacts were 5 and 19 respectively. With only the short walk and short drive involved, we were done and dusted, and back in the car before 11am. We had plenty of time to get up to Housedon Hill G/SB-010 before the forecast rain arrived.


Housedon Hill G/SB-010, 267m ASL, 1.1km ascent, 1.8km descent

So the second summit of Thursday 28th July 2011 was Housedon Hill. From Ros Hill G/SB-009 we drove north back past Wooler on the A697, and then via B roads and a minor road down to Reedsford. We parked off the side of the track at NT894323 and commenced the walk up the farm track angling north west.

Jimmy insisted on following the route described on Jim G0CQK’s SB SOTA region website to the letter, so we passed through a gate at NT897326 and began a very steep climb up the grassy slope. This led to the 266m summit at NT902327, not the true summit, but easily within the activation zone. We all passed across to the true 267m summit by the wall next to the wood for photos. I remained there to set up for 40m, while Jimmy returned to the 266m point which appeared to have a better VHF take-off.

Liam had earned another 10 Nintendo Playcoins, which he set about spending. I understood the relationship between counted steps and rewards more when Liam explained that 100 steps = 1 coin up to 1000 steps, then the next was awarded after 100,000 steps!

40m wasn’t in great shape and just 8 QSOs were made on 40m CW. This was supplemented by a S2S with LX/PA3FYG/P on Kiirchbësch LX/LX-003 on 40m SSB. Jimmy M3EYP had come back across to explain that he had only managed one QSO on 2m FM, and asked if he could operate my station. Jimmy soon had the other 3 QSOs he needed for a qualification by going on 40m SSB, after which I made a couple of QSOs on that band/mode combo myself.

Before packing up and descending, we both worked Richard GM3CWI/M down in a campsite in Southern Scotland, using 2m FM. Descent was via a wider loop, heading down a more graded quadbike track to the wall nearer to the saddle to the WNW of the summit.

It was still only early afternoon, but we were tired, and rain was expected to come in from the west. I decided to take the lads for a drive across the causeway to Holy Island. The timing worked out well, because the tide was receding and the road had just become passable as we arrived. I would have liked to have the lads see the sea blocking our progress first as I had done as a 19 year old student in 1989, but the main thing was visiting the island. A walk around, and a long sit enjoying the sea air beside Lindisfarne Castle was followed by a pint in the pub.

We were three summits in out of the targeted seven, and everything was going to plan. A slap up dinner (huge portions and lovely service - recommended) and beer was enjoyed in the Angel Inn in Wooler that evening.


In reply to M1EYP:

Liam perched himself on a rock and announced that he had earned 10
Nintendo Playcoins on his 3DS console. It turned out that his new 3DS

  • his main birthday present from June - has a pedometer built in,
    which rewards in playcoins which may be exchange for items from the
    Nintendo shop.

What a brilliant idea!



Is all becoming clear now Richard about this highly unexpected change in behaviour?

Peel Fell G/SB-004, 602m ASL, 5.3km each way

Friday 29th July 2011 was the day we had arranged to meet with MT colleague and SB Region Manager Jim G0CQK for a joint expedition. Jimmy advised driving from Wooler to the border fence parking spot (a distance of about 60 miles) to the north of the hills, and therefore mainly through Scotland. In Jedburgh, we paused to buy packed lunch stuff from the local Co-op.

The journey took longer than anticipated, so we were about 30 minutes late in meeting Jim at the parking spot at NY608964. After kitting up, we were walking along the forest tracks, which seemed to extend a very long way as they curved around the fells. After a good 90 minutes walking, this brought us to the border fence/wall between England and Scotland. We crossed this and began the ascent up the fell on the Scottish side of the border.

On the final approach to the summit, the fence turned towards the right, and towards the summit, but apparently the national border continues in a straight line at this point, so the rest of the walking, and the summit itself, were entirely within England, although the activation zone does extend back into Scotland.

Although Liam had again done very well, him and I were last to arrive on summit. Jimmy was already set up, but not yet QRV, and had been having his lunch with Jim and Craig. Jim G0CQK/P was QRV on 5MHz SSB, and Jimmy M3EYP/P was soon into his swing on 2m FM. I got myself set up for 40m CW and ended up making 14 contacts in between mouthfuls of sandwich and Scotch egg, including a S2S with HB9AFI/P on HB/BE-156. Jimmy made 8 QSOs on 2m, including S2S with Bobby G7GAX/P on Dale Head G/LD-020.

On the first part of the descent, the handhelds were unleashed to chase Richard G1JTD/P on Burnhope Seat G/NP-003. Thereafter, the descent was a very pleasant walk through the forest, with Jimmy and Craig leading the way, way ahead, and Liam following behind but keeping up a decent pace. In between, Jim G0CQK and I enjoyed an interesting conversation that made the long walk fly by for me.

Afterwards, we adjourned down the road to the Anglers Arms in Kielder village for a couple of welcome pints of ale in the beer garden. After we bid farewell to Jim, we took a rather “interesting” route back north-east by initially taking the toll road directly over to the A68. This was probably not the wisest move I have ever made, having already noticed that the drop links needed replacing in my suspension, but I got away with it.

Take-away fish & chips from Wooler were enjoyed with a good view on Wooler Common (Jim’s recommendation) before heading down to the pub for beer, quiz machine and pool.


Saturday 30th July 2011 was my 17th wedding anniversary. For the second year running, Marianne and I were apart on this day. Again, I was on a SOTA camping trip with Jimmy, Liam and Jimmy’s mate Craig, while Marianne was working. Marianne had sent me away with a big red box in the car, which turned out to contain a veritable feast of delicatessen type items - olive oil baked bread, artichoke hearts in a jar, rhubarb and ginger preserve, yoghurt and ceral bars, bottles of citrus brew etc. These had mostly been eaten by the expedition team as special breakfasts/lunches ahead of the anniversary date, but I did at least save opening the card until the day. An exchange of texts directed Marianne to where I had left her present - another charm for her Pandora bracelet.

With the turgidity out of the way, we could concentrate on the matter in hand, and the next SOTA summit in the campaign.

Tosson G/SB-007, 440m ASL, 4.7km each way

We began by visiting the Co-op in Wooler to purchase breakfast and packed lunch items, as this strategy had worked well the previous day. Jimmy then directed as I drove south to Rothbury (of Rawl Moat fame) and then on the country lanes and into the forest park car park at NZ037996.

Although the walking involved was much easier than the likes of Sighty Crag G/SB-005 or Peel Fell G/SB-004, this was still a long walk, as indeed the later summit of Long Crag G/SB-008 would be. Fortunately, Liam was now walking really quickly as well as enthusiastically, and for most of the approach to Tosson I couldn’t keep up with him.

We followed the forest tracks as they looped around and headed past the distinctive Simonside Crags. But just as we got close to them, our route turned and headed away for a long gradual climb to the summit of Tosson. Here, the trig point was surrounded by a stone shelter. Liam quickly baggsed this spot as his own to play on his 3DS and spend yet another 10 playcoins just earned on the ascent!

Jimmy M3EYP made 9 contacts on 2m FM, including S2S with Neil 2W0TDX/P and Karen 2W0XYL/P on Old Man of Coniston G/LD-013, also Jim G0CQK/M and George and Lesa, G2ARY and M0BQD respectively. On 40m CW I did one better with ten QSOs, including S2S with Aage LA1ENA/P on LA/TM-217.

But with another long walk to squeeze into the day, we got packed up and on our way when things went quiet, and it was onto Long Crag G/SB-008.


After Tosson G/SB-007 on Saturday 30th July 2011, we had a second longish walk to consider.

Long Crag G/SB-008, 319m ASL, 3.4km each way

From Tosson G/SB-007, we headed back for the A697 then drove north until bearing left at NU093068. Only a short distance down this road saw us parking in a layby opposite the start of the track at NU091072. The forestry on this long walk was punctuated briefly for a long linear clearing through will power lines hung between pylons.

Although the map indicates that the forest track stops at NU074065, a path continued as Jim G0CQK promised. But the SB SOTA region manager had also promised that we would smell and hear the bees in the beehives a short distance down another track. I didn’t!

Once out of the forestry, the final approach to Long Crag summit seemed strangely familiar, even though it was a new unique. Everything - the path, the stones, the sand, the heather - looked uncannily like the final approach up to The Cloud G/SP-015. When I caught Jimmy up at the summit, he came across to tell me the same thing!

There wasn’t another 10 playcoins for Liam to spend in the Nintendo shop, for he had already used them all on Tosson, and the footstep count only restarts, rather like chaser points, in each calendar day. But at least there was plenty of charge left in the unit to keep him happily playing away by the trig point while Jimmy and I did some radio. I was pleased, that both Liam’s 3DS, and my new mobile 'phone, both seemed to enjoy a significantly longer charge life than their respective predecessors. (Woo hoo, on a turgidity roll now…!).

Radio wise, it was 9 contacts on HF CW for me, one on 15m and the rest on 40m. Jimmy scored just the regulation four on 2m FM. It was now a long walk back to the car, as we passed the 30 mile mark for the holiday.

After driving back to the campsite in Wooler, we showered before returning to the Indian restaurant, this time for a full four course banquet meal, accompanied (of course) by large Kingfisher beers. It was an atmosphere of celebration in the restaurant, as we had now completed 6 out of out 7 target uniques, and would just need to bag Shillhope Law G/SB-006 as we commenced our journey home the next day.


Sunday 31st July 2011 began with the chore of unpitching the tent and packing the car. This is where it always becomes obvious the scale of benefit of having Craig with us. Him and Jimmy both worked hard to help me unpitch and pack up. Liam helped a bit!

Shillhope Law G/SB-006, 501m ASL, 2.7km each way

After the now routine provisions stock up at Wooler Co-op, we now headed into the beautiful Cheviots. Liam and I reminisced about our last drive along this road into Upper Coquetdale, during our 2010 Pennine Way Road Trip - PW Road Trip Day 4

Snow had prevented us from getting to the top of the road on that occasion, so we resolved to do so after this activation. We parked in the car park at NT866103, just before the hamlet of Barrowburn, and we soon gazing into the deep water below the bridge as we crossed Wedder Leap, somewhat more successfully than the legendary sheep rustler who may have been an early candidate for a Darwen Award!

From here we made a snaking approach to the gate at NT873101, through deep heather on steepish ground, so progress was slow. After then, it was a familiar SB slog uphill to the summit, where again, a large stone shelter cairn surrounded the triangulation column. I sat with Liam in there after setting up the aerial.

Jimmy managed five QSOs on 2m FM, whereas I made eight on HF CW, one on 10m, and the rest on 40m. Lunch eaten, and gear packed away, it was time to descend this final hill of the expedition and go home.

We did follow the road up to the Pennine Way on the border ridge, then used the military ranges, which were open, to continue and drive down to the A68 at Byrness. Already, I was feeling tired, so a rest was in order before a very long drive south. We called in at the Byrness Hotel, where Jimmy and I had overnighted on the Pennine Way in 2006.

It is now open as a tearoom during the day, and Katy the landlady remembered us from fiev years ago. We had an enjoyable 45 minute break of tea, coffee, cakes and J2O, while chatting with Katy about subsequent progress in 2006 and events since.

Suitably refreshed, it was back on the road, and down the A68, A1, M1, M62, M60, A34 and A537 to Macclesfield, with a loop to Bollington to drop Craig off. It had been a really successful outing with favourable weather, nice (long) walks, good company, radio, food and beer. But Jimmy and I agreed quietly with each other that we were astonished that Liam had managed that level of intensity of walking over the five days, and had done so cooperatively and cheerfully!

Many thanks to all the stations that called us on the SB summits.


P.S. - don’t turn off your turgidity filters yet, the Cadair Berwyn report is on its way!

In reply to M1EYP:

P.S. - don’t turn off your turgidity filters yet

I’m wondering what’ll happen when Liam maxes out his playcoins?

73, Rick M0LEP

Good question, and one I had been pondering. After the first ascent of the day, it was usually impossible for him to earn any more until the following calendar day. But this didn’t seem to put him off and cause him to withdraw his goodwill. I reckon that initial walk of the day did the trick of releasing the endorphins to the brain! He still doesn’t get why it is that he tends to be in such a good mood for the rest of the day after a walk (that he really didn’t want to do)!


In reply to M1EYP:

Nice report Tom. I may have heard you or Jimmy on Housedon Hill from Duncolm SS-222 on the Kilpatrick hills, well I heard a portable station and a GM3 QSY from 145.500 at the time you were on the summit but they were 3,1 at best and I lost them after that. Maybe next time.

Iain, MM3WJZ

Yes, you probably did Iain. Both Jimmy and I worked Richard GM3CWI/M from that summit. I think it was Jimmy operating when a QSY from S20 would have happened, because IIRC, I simply tail-ended Jimmy and Richard’s QSO to work CWI.

Shame we missed you - and the S2S.


In reply to M1EYP:

Tom, how long before Liam realises all he has to do is hide the 3DS in yours or Jimmy’s bag and he will have earned coins when you get back?

I wonder if it would work with my lot, they take their DS’s when we go walking anyway.

Steve GW7AAV

I presume you meant Liam!

Steve, we nearly had a disaster on the first day when halfway through the descent of Sighty Crag, Liam realised the 3DS was NOT in his pocket. I figured it had probably dropped out on the steep scrambly descent of Long Bar Ridge, so we headed back in that direction to mount the search. In fact, we found it within seconds, by the unbarbed section of fence that needed to be stepped over at the bottom of the steep bit.

From that moment on, I was really keen to have Liam carry the 3DS in his rucksack, or one of the zip pockets on mine or Jimmy’s attire. He would have none of it, saying that it would only work if it was close to a leg (might be true), and that it had to be his leg (no doubt untrue!).

Suffice to say that the only pair of trousers Liam wore for the rest of the week was his walking trousers with zip pockets!


In reply to M1EYP:

In fact, we found it within seconds, by the unbarbed section of fence
that needed to be stepped over at the bottom of the steep bit.


I was up in the Lakes beginning of July (sans rig) and we hiked over Windy Gap to Black Sail; bit of a scramble, and plenty of scree… A couple arrived at Black Sail a while later. They’d hiked from Grasmere, and one of them had lost a phone. It had been in a back pocket before they started the descent from Windy Gap…

73, Rick M0LEP

Sighty Crag G/SB-005 webpage, with photos, now on the site at


Ros Hill G/SB-009 webpage, with photos, now on the site at


Housedon Hill G/SB-010 webpage, with photos, now on the site at


Peel Fell G/SB-004 webpage, with photos, now on the site at

This activation was done jointly with Jimmy M3EYP (as usual), but also with Jim G0CQK, the SB Region Manager.