High Raise and High Street
20th and 21st March 2011
Being limited by our current work arrangements, Paul and I are now carrying out activations once a month, generally with an overnight stay at Cockermouth Travelodge. This month turned out to be no exception, though it was originally to be a single day visit to the Lake District to activate High Street, G/LD-011 on the SOTA UHF Activity Day on 27th March. Unfortunately this was not possible due to family commitments on my side.
Weather forecast watching during the week before our visit helped us decide which summits we would be activating this time around. We selected High Raise G/LD-019 for Sunday 20th March on account of the forecast for rain and low cloud, followed by St Sunday Crag G/LD-010, Fairfield G/LD-007 and Seat Sandal G/LD-022 for the Monday, as the weather was supposed to have cleared by then. We were particularly keen to activate this trio on a fine day…
Sunday started for me at 02:50 a.m., the inner clock bettering the electronic version on my watch by ten minutes. I wondered whether I had everything I needed as I set off for Paul’s QTH at 03:38. Little did I know Paul would be experiencing the same worries shortly afterwards when he got out of bed. We left Stourbridge at 05:08 and despite a detour around the A500 at Stoke caused by closure of the M6, we managed to park up in the National Trust car park at Langdale at 08:15. By 08:35 we were making our ascent.
The route to High Raise G/LD-019 is very mixed in character The initial section up by the side of Stickle Ghyll is a well made stone path with steps that would have been extremely easy going had it not been for the light rain falling making the stones slippery. For me it brought back happy memories of 50 years ago when I last trod this path with family and friends as a youngster.
For this ascent I was wearing my Berghaus Kibo B2 grade boots and I started to wonder whether I had made the right choice as the sharply cut heels grabbed at the front edges of the stepped sections. However, I was soon to appreciate them as we increasingly got into what might loosely be termed “open country”.
Our itinerary had been prepared with poor weather conditions in mind, though what took the time on this ascent was the regular use of Paul’s new mapping GPS which became invaluable as the visibility closed in to little more than 20 metres. The track was plain to see up to Stickle Tarn, but thereafter it became less distinct and frequently was lost as we trekked across boggy patches. Somehow we completely missed the right turn shown on the 1:25,000 map at around NY289079 (the 1:50,000 on the GPS differed) and we ended up taking a shorter “off-piste” route north towards our main point of reference, the WOTA summit of Sergeant Man. We hit the “motorway” a few hundred metres from this point. It was then a relatively easy task to complete the ascent to High Raise, though we were only to be provided with a decent view of the summit once we were within a hundred metres of the trig.
The brief opening in the cloud must have been a sign as no sooner had we reached the trig than the wind and rain simultaneously increased in strength. I was quick to grab a slot in the highest of the two shelters and Paul went off to investigate the other. After a minute or two I saw him trekking across to some rocks which sported a convenient fence post, but he was soon lost in the mist. It took some time to set up my station and several attempts were necessary to raise the antenna as the wind and rain stung my eyes. Eventually with the judicious use of bungies, I managed to get the beam secure about 2 metres above ground. This was wet weather operating almost as bad as I have ever experienced it, but hunkered down in the shelter I managed to make the best of it. At least under the backpack waterproof cover, the rig was dry.
I managed to be first on air and after checking the beacons announced my presence on 144.333MHz at 11:51. Tony G1OAE was ready waiting and keen to try for a contact on 70cms, so I moved up a band so allowing the crowd to develop on 2m. For some reason, I wasn’t able to make contact with Tony, but John G0TDM called in and we exchanged reports. After a few more calls for Tony, John followed me back down to 2m and then the run proper got under way. Several times during the best part of an hour the melee was 4 or 5 calls deep. In all 32 were worked on 2m SSB including Matt 2E0XTL/P on Bredon Hill G/CE-003 to at long last complete my chases of the Central England area. After working Geoff GM4WHA up in Annan, the frequency went clear and I announced a move to 70cms where I found Tony G1OAE at an excellent 59 followed by an equally strong Bob G6ODU. Unfortunately a fourth contact on the band was to elude me on this summit and I went QRT at 13:12.
Paul opened up on 60m at 11:55 and found conditions to be rather variable with signals up and down. First in the log was Brian G4ZRP followed by a relatively slow run of regular chasers up to 12:19 when Al OZ7MHZ called in. At 12:29, Andy MM0FMF/P was worked on Ben Chonzie GM/SS-015 for the first S2S of the day. After a round of contacts in G, GW, GM and GI, Dave M0MYA/P on Bredon Hill called in to provide Paul with a second S2S and his final contact on 60m. It was now 12:47 and Paul was well and truly soaked despite his over-fleece. Several chasers had reported very poor conditions on 80m, so given the weather conditions, Paul sensibly decided to go QRT. After packing up, he joined me in the summit shelter and discovered that I had bagged the best spot on the hill. Even so, everyone that had visited the shelter while I had been operating had not stayed more than a few minutes, a couple of them having declared me crazy to be stopping up on the summit.
It was 13:30 when we left High Raise and made the 20 minute trek across to Sergeant Man LDW-072. Here the C520 paperweight and Yaesu whip were deployed. I worked 3 stations and Paul one. Unfortunately Mark MM1MPB heard me, but I disappeared as I moved around the summit to improve signals to other chasers. By 14:08 we were on our way again and this time we tried to utilise more of the “motorway”, but found it took us away from where we wanted to be, so once more we struck out across country towards Stickle Tarn. The descent thereafter wasn’t simple either - we missed a stream crossing and took a slightly different route back to Langdale, arriving there at 15:45. It was still raining, so we quickly stowed our kit and set off for Cockermouth. At least the weather was fine there when we arrived at 17:05.
It took two sessions to remove all our wet gear from the car and lay it out in our rooms to dry. After the mandatory calls home, hot showers and changes of clothing, we met up to go down into Cockermouth to our favourite pub for a few drinks and something to eat. Being keen to get at anything that Cumbria’s smallest brewery has to offer, I managed a completely “off-guard” moment as I got out the car and felt my back twinge. This self-inflicted injury naturally became an issue that we discussed over Bitter End Lakeland Golden and the excellent food on offer at the bistro-pub. The local weather forecast was indicating a risk of rain showers for the following day and this too was taken into account. After considering all the pros and cons, we came to the conclusion that a change in the itinerary to a single summit was the way to go, which basically meant three options – Seatallan, Illgill Head or High Street.
Back at the Travelodge we sat in Paul’s room sorting out an itinerary. I then posted a “heads up” spot advising of the proposed change and then repeated it as an alert. The problem was getting rid of the three redundant alerts. Then my mobile rang (a rare event indeed) – it was Mike G4BLH calling to say he would be on Winter Hill the following day and would like to try on 23cms FM. I asked him to remove the redundant spots, which he kindly agreed to do. Problem solved. The change in itinerary meant an extra hour in bed – we would meet up at 06:50.
I woke up several times during the night. At one stage I was completely locked up and had to grab the edge of the mattress to pull myself over, but by 06:20 when the alarm abruptly woke me, my back was feeling much better, though a little sore. After packing the car, we left Cockermouth at 06:58 and headed off for the car park at the end of Haweswater where we would start our ascent of High Street G/LD-011.
With the change of itinerary, this was to be a completely mapless ascent. There was not much opportunity to go wrong as the route basically goes up a ridge and over Rough Crag and I had read the account by Tom M1EYP a couple of times and so had it securely in my mind. We also had Paul’s mapping GPS to confirm where we were.
We set out at 08:25, twenty minutes earlier than planned, but after a while it became apparent that we would need all of the very generous time we had allowed and more to get to the summit. I always refrain from eating much before ascents otherwise I suffer from indigestion. The 185 calories gained from the two cereal bars I ate was sufficient to provide me with energy for the ascent. However, it was not sufficient to dampen the waves of nausea that I experienced on account of the pain in my back, which came back with a vengeance once we got into the climb proper. I had to keep stopping to let the feeling pass and it seemed an age before we reached Rough Crag. Thereafter it was little easier, but by then my right hip had came out in sympathy, no doubt on account of a change in my posture as I tried to compensate for my back. Eventually we reached the trig at 11:30, when almost as if to provide some relief, the sun broke through the cloud. However it was not to last and the majority of our time on the summit was spent in cloud.
We selected locations along the wall to the east of the trig and set up our stations. I took time to eat lunch, which helped me feel considerably better. Paul was on air first working his namesake G0HNW at 11:53. By normal standards, progress was slow and conditions seemed to be worse than the previous day. It took around 40 minutes to get 12 contacts in the log. After working Bob G6ODU, Paul announced a move to 80m and quickly worked G0HNW at reasonable strength, but that was to be that. Twenty minutes of calling produced nothing more, so Paul moved back to 60m where he worked a further 7 chasers before calling it a day at around 13:18. Standing up to dismantle his station, Paul soon realised that the cloud had dampened everything down, so once more we would have antennas and poles to dry out once we got home.
I came up on my usual frequency spot on our alert time of 12:00 to find several people waiting. Roger G4OWG was first in the log. Signal strengths were quite good from this eastern Lakeland summit and I soon had a page full. Brian G4ZRP decided to test my receive capability by running just 50mW. The run ended with a contact with Frank G3RMD and then Brian called back in to set up a test on 23cms which was not successful. Back on 2m, I announced a move to 70cms and managed to work Mike GW0DSP before making the QSY at 13:05. My first contact on 70cms was with Bob G6ODU who almost set my headphones alight. Brian followed and Karen 2E0XYL provided a third contact. Changing to CW in order to attempt to contact Frank G3RMD produced a contact with Roger G4OWG instead. Brian then called me back on SSB to say he was in contact with Mike G4BLH/P on Winter Hill on 23cms and would I join them. I switched the rig on and before I picked up the antenna, I heard Mike - then to my surprise Brian as well. I called in and two QSOs were quickly in the log. To finish off I returned to 70cms, but further calls on CW did not produce a contact with Frank, so I closed at 13:30.
Paul came over to my position when I was part way through my packing and we started to make our descent at 13:47. I bagged a couple of contacts on 2m FM with the handheld before we left the activation zone. The descent was to prove to be a challenge in a way that we could never have anticipated. Shortly after leaving the summit plateau, the locally forecast rain hit us leaving the rocks underfoot extremely greasy. Unfortunately on one particularly steep section, Paul lost his footing and fell, taking most of his weight on his right wrist. It was immediately clear that he had suffered a serious injury and was in great pain and it wasn’t long before swelling occurred.
The descent thereafter was made, quite literally single handed, with several sections needing great care. Although I had a triangular bandage in my first aid kit, Paul decided to support his right arm with his left to provide a measure of shock proofing and despite everything we made it back to the car in just over 2 hours. A quick turn around saw us on the road homeward bound at 16:06 with arrival at Stourbridge just 3 hours later, which included a stop for petrol and pain-relief. I didn’t stay long at Paul’s house so he could get down to A and E to check out his wrist. Fortunately the X-ray showed no damage to the joint, but a clean break in the bone above.
So where does that leave us? Well, what else would you expect from us? The next sortie planned towards the end of April was discussed during the drive home despite Paul’s situation. We anticipate that a change to our usual MO will be required, but the situation will be monitored and it is fully our intention to be back out on the hills as planned. So see you all then!
73 to all, Gerald G4OIG