Scafell Pike New year’s eve activation report 31/12/2008 – 1/1/2009
While I don’t normally go in for this sort of thing Thomas has suggested we produce a report in this instance given the unusual nature of the trip.
First a disclaimer: night time activations are considerably more difficult, not to say dangerous than daylight ones, and considerable planning went into organising this one. If you have any doubts as to your ability to look after yourself in such situations please think carefully about attempting such an activation.
Having confirmed the general prognosis as to the likely weather over the new year we arrived in Wasdale late on 30/12/08 to camp overnight. The air temperature was around -5 C with a heavy frost that evening as we pitched the tent in the dark. Fortunately there was no wind.
After a supper of beef in ale stew, Christmas cake, hot chocolate and wine we retired to our sleeping bags for the night. It was a clear night and the temperature dropped even further possibly getting as low as -10 C. Despite this our sleeping bag/sleeping bag cover/self inflating mattress combinations together with multiple pairs of socks kept us reasonably comfortable.
We awoke to a foggy dawn and frozen water bottles. Warming the gas cylinder under the hot tap in the toilet block (the propane/butane mix used in camping gas stoves has a boiling point of -6C and vapour pressure is low anyway at these sorts of temperatures) helped us prepare a cooked breakfast and heat water for drinks etc.
After packing away the main tent and repacking our rucksacks we made a planned relatively late start for our next campsite. We made our way via Sty Head tarn along the corridor route at a relaxed pace towards our chosen camp site, a secluded spot near near Round Howe (map refs available to interested parties) at approximately 2400’ ASL. We arrived on time at around 1530 giving us approximately an hour of light to get the tent up and cook tea etc.
After a tea of Chicken Tikka Massala, flapjack and hot chocolate we retired to our sleeping bags around 1700 to keep warm and get a few hours of rest. We extricated ourselves from our sleeping bags at around 2115, made coffee, and around 2200, carrying just the essentials: GPS, radio equipment, spare batteries, chocolate etc. started our final ascent by head torch. It was a calm clear night and the young moon having set at around 2100 afforded excellent views of the milky way and several bright shooting stars.
We arrived on the summit in good time at around 2315 and given the absence of any wind simply sat with our backs to the summit cairn. As we were erecting the SOTA beam a solitary light approached. It turned out to be Martin who had made the ascent alone from the Langdale valley carrying a set of five rockets in order to celebrate the new year.
Concerned that we had to activate the summit before midnight in order to gain both sets of points and having been unable to self spot (mobile phone reception
was surprising poor that night on LD-001) I put out our first CQ on 2m FM using just the handheld antenna at approximately 2325. I needn’t have worried as Mike G4BLH immediately replied. We managed 25 QSOs between us before midnight and Thomas was actually on the air to Scott 2E0RCS as midnight passed. Hearing reports that Big Ben had rung in the new year was the cue for Martin to launch his firework display aided by Thomas.
The display over we were back on the air at 0006 UTC again picking up G4BLH for our first SOTA QSO of the new year. 21 QSOs were made in rapid succession on 2m FM. Once the calls began to dry up and in response to requests we switched to 2m SSB employing the beam and the FT817 neither of which had so far been used. We added a further 7 QSOs on SSB before finally closing down our temporary station at around 0046 hours UTC.
In retrospect it would perhaps have been better to have used SSB throughout but there really wasn’t the time and in any case many of the chasers were away from their home QTHs anyway so perhaps it was fair to give the local stations the best chance. Apologies to anyone who missed out on the points for this reason.
Packing up we began our descent in the knowledge that if we failed to retrace our steps we were in for, to say the least, an uncomfortable night. The GPS came in very useful in confirming the right place to branch off the tourist track onto the corridor route. We were aided in our return by a number of carefully placed markers that we had left behind on our earlier ascent allowing us to reach our tent relatively uneventfully at around 0220 hours and crawl into our sleeping bags for a well earned rest.
After a good night’s sleep (due to a temperature inversion it seemed to be 2-3 degrees warmer up on the fell compared to the cold trap that was Wasdale). We slept in until nearly 0900. After eating breakfast and breaking camp we made our way back down the corridor route and made a rather slow ascent of Great Gable weighed down by our packs, arriving on the summit at around 1330. While it was sunny due to there now being a light breeze the summit was rather cold. We thus stuck to our plan to keep the activation short and use just the handheld. Fifteen minutes later we had a further 12 QSOs in the bag between us including a S2S with Clive M1YAM on NP-016 and a further 11 points.
Once the calls dried up we continued on our way towards Kirk fell. We were getting tired by this point carrying our full packs and it became apparent that our decision earlier that morning not to attempt Pillar was the only practical one.
We arrived on LD-014 as around 1620 at sunset and despite eventually managing to self spot, at first struggled to get replies to our CQ calls. Fortunately G0HIK eventually found us, followed by G0TDM, G4RQJ and GM4WHA/P. We experienced some QRM and in QSYing to avoid it missed GW7AAV and it seems others who were trying to work us. It was dark by this point and at 1644 after putting out a number of further calls on S20 we decided to pack up and call it a day.
We elected to descend via the familiar but exhausting direct path down to Wasdale arriving at the Wasdale Head Inn at around 1830 ready for Lamb Henry, Steak in ale pie and sticky toffee pudding washed down with Great Gable ale and Pepsi.
All in all we felt a successful trip:
48 SOTA points each 3 summits activated 1 new unique for Thomas (LD-001) Thomas passed the half goat mark (500 point) on LD-001 Rick passed his personal target of 700 points for 2008 only one day late!
Lessons learnt: an aqua-pure water filter doesn’t work if it gets blocked up with ice.
Thanks to all who were listening out for us, for spotting services and helping us activate the summits.
73 and a happy new year to all.
Rick M0RCP and Thomas M3OOL
P.S. There is another copy of this report on the summits base website that includes pictures