Marianne working a night-shift, no work, no football, Liam needing the exercise, Jimmy needing the points, me wanting a festive outing, and an expedition proposal on the table from Richard G3CWI. All the boxes were ticked. It was off to Black Hill G/SP-002, a relatively local summit considering that none of the three of us had activated it yet in 2008.
I did my very best to get everything sorted last night, and this morning, and didn’t do too bad in arriving to pick up Richard, and daughter Mai Ling, at 6.50am this morning. We hit the M60 via Poynton, and pulled in at dingy looking greasy spoon in Ashton-under-Lyne.
What a fantastic breakfast. 3 sausage, 3 bacon, 2 eggs, black pudding, spam, mushrooms, beans, tomatoes, two toast and a mug of tea for £3.95. After this welcome interlude, Jimmy resumed the navigation duties and led us out of Tameside and up onto the A635 Holmfirth road. Jimmy identified the old Pennine Way (the difficult ascent route we used in 2003) and we continued on to the layby just before the junction, opposite the current Pennine Way footpath to Black Hill.
We opened the car doors and were blasted by a fierce buffeting wind. Suddenly, I had a mutiny on my hands. Liam, Mai Ling, Jimmy and Richard were all content to chuck the towel in and cancel. Lightweights! Now safety and common sense dictates that cancellation must always be an option, but not without at least having a little go! Reluctantly, my walking companions put on their boots, overtrousers, hats, gloves, coats and rucksacks, and we embarked downhill along the flagged Pennine Way at around 9.30am.
Soon, the wind was not so much of a problem. Some shelter was afforded by the peat hags surrounding us, and the land formation at the parking spot did seem to be acting as some sort of wind tunnel, thus exacerbating the effect there.
Care needs to be taken descending and ascending a couple of steep sided mini-valleys, as well as with crossing the streams that run through them. Then it was the long curving walk, increasingly steep, up the shoulder of Black Hill. Only when well into the flat summit plateau could we see the trig point at Soldier’s Lump, such was the density of the morning fog. We arrived just before 11am after a leisurely and unhurried stroll.
We hunted around for relative shelter. The best we could get was the bottom of a small grassy bank, right on the edge of a very watery bog. I sat Liam down with strict instructions not to put his feet into the black liquid!
Richard set up his 40m dipole and disappeared inside his bothy bog making lots of CW QSOs. Jimmy and I erected the 80m dipole, and then sat in a line with Liam, with Jimmy opening proceedings on 80m SSB. Initial CQ calls were fruitless, but things soon changed after a self-spot via Spotlite. Now Jimmy made a good run of 11 QSOs, before working down the pile-up and passing control of the station to his dad.
I went one better with 12 contacts on 80m CW, but our combined efforts could not match Richard who rattled off over 30 QSOs on 40m CW well before we had finished operating. I completed my work on 3.557MHz CW while Richard and Mai Ling cackled though an extended play-fight in front of me. A passer-by commented on how unusual it was to see people using the “low bands” for portable hilltop radio, and that he was more used to seeing people with “dishes and 10cm equipment, especially in Wales”.
After polishing off the last of the Leek, Potato and Kentish Cider soup, Liam set off on the descent with Mai Ling and Richard, while Jimmy and myself packed the 80m station away. Although we had kept ourselves warm with slight shelter, extra layers and hot soup, it was still very cold and no time to be loitering. We didn’t bother with a call on 2m, although we hadn’t alerted for such in any case.
We caught up with the other three around the shoulder of the hill, thanks to Liam’s customary pace, at which Richard and Mai Ling were having to walk. There was no complaint from our two friends though, and as Jimmy and I stepped up the pace a bit, Richard and Mai Ling still chose to hang back and walk at Liam’s pace. So a gentle stroll all the way there and back it was to be.
The driving route home took us through Stalybridge, and I suggested the railway station as somewhere to stop for a rest. I had never been, but heard loads about it. We were not disappointed, in fact we were more then impressed. A marvellous old-fashioned traditional railway station buffet bar, full of authentic decor, furniture and signage, as well as a bar length of seasonal Christmas real ales (and J2Os). Unfortunately, they had run out of black peas!
We liked it there, so much so that we are even thinking of going back there for a train/walking expedition WITHOUT a radio or a SOTA summit! It was THAT good!
The drive back was swift and unimpeded, and before 3pm we were back in Macclesfield and enjoying a mug of tea and homemade cranberry muffins at Richard’s QTH. If I wasn’t in the mood for Christmas, I certainly am now.
Thanks very much to all stations that called, we must have made about 55 contacts between the three of us.