This round of activations was actually planned in outline back in April when we managed to book the Travelodge at Kendal. Being in a very popular area this unit rarely sports cheap rooms, but six months in advance we found a couple of rooms at £19 for the night of Sunday 10th October. Back in April we had worked up an itinerary for a day of activations on 3 single point summits in the Ambleside area and we decided that these with a couple of other summits in the area might fit the bill for the two days. Little did we realise at that time that Paul would be within striking distance of achieving his Mountain Goat.
As the months rolled on and we carried out a number of activations, the points total rose steadily. The Howgills activation in August brought Paul to 981 points. I managed a single day out with Mike G4BLH in September, but Paul was busy with a heavy workload in his relatively new job, so we were faced with either achieving 19 points over the two days or leaving Paul’s Goat activation for another month. The three one point summits, a six point summit plus Helvellyn seemed to be the best way to land Paul right on the 1000 point target, so I set about working out an itinerary to suit.
High Raise LD-019 seemed to be the most logical six point summit given the location of the other summits, but no matter how I looked at tackling it, the walk in took too much time. Even with our notorious early starts, there would only just be sufficient time on day 1 to bag just one other summit with this one. Two single point summits plus Helvellyn was a possibility for day 2, but I would not be home before midnight if we did it that way. I therefore rapidly came to the conclusion that it would be better to take the relatively easy Pike of Blisco LD-024 as the six point summit and combine this with two one point summits. This worked quite well, but even so we would not be at the Travelodge until 7.10 p.m.
We kept to our “standard” start out time of 02:00z and after a very smooth journey we reached the parking at the Three Shires Stone (NY277027) four and a half hours later. I had been a little concerned that we might be pushed for parking at this popular location, but we turned out to be the first to park up. Actually there was a person sitting in a car further down Wrynose Pass watching the dawn come up from the east – some people just know what the good things are in life!
The track to the Pike of Blisco was just as described by Geoff G6MZX, the steep ascent to the summit located some 100 metres past Red Tarn being very well defined. The sky was cloudless and we had some excellent views as we ascended. The beehive cairn at the summit was reached at 07:57z, over half an hour ahead of schedule which allowed us to extend our activation beyond the 45 minutes scheduled. For this summit Paul was running 2m SSB and I was using the higher bands on account of the restricted space and the fact that we would most likely have visitors during the activation. In the event just two people came to the summit, one of whom told us that the summit was being activated the last time he had visited it. I hope it won’t put him off making further visits.
Paul put a call out on 144.333MHz at 08:10, but seeing we were not due to be QRV until 08:45 it was not surprising that no-one was listening. However a call on the calling frequency kick started the activation as John G0TDM was monitoring. John’s spot raised the troops and Paul enjoyed a steady run of 22 contacts around G, GW and GM in just under an hour. Not bad for a barefoot 817 and 3 element SOTAbeam. Paul’s log included many regulars and some new faces in the form of Allan M6AMO and Fred M0VLC. From what I could hear as I sat some 10m away from Paul, conditions seemed to be quite reasonable and I hoped it would be the same on 70cms and 23cms.
It took me a little longer than Paul to set up. I used my standard mast with the 6 element 70cms DL6WU yagi at around 4m and the 15 over 15 element 23cms yagi at around 2m. John G0TDM was my first contact, though reports were 51 both ways due to us being cross-polarised. David G6LKB followed and was somewhat stronger and Mike G4BLH restored my confidence in the kit with 59 signals both ways from near Pinhaw Beacon. The report was the same both ways on 23cms. However my hopes for a quick qualification of the summit were dashed as I could not hear or get my signal across to John MW1FGQ on either band. The mass of Wetherlam (LDW-058) at 762m was obviously having an effect even though I was only 57m lower in height. At around 08:50z after many CQ calls on 432.222MHz, I decided to give FM a try, lowered the antenna and changed the 70cms beam to vertical. A call on the FM calling frequency brought John G0TDM straight back and he offered his alternative call as a “banker” for qualification. I did not actually need this in the end as after signing with John I worked Steve M0SHM near Garstang followed by Geoff GM4WHA in Annan. Not a large log by any means, but I knew I would work more later on.
We left the summit at 09:35, ten minutes ahead of schedule and hot-footed it back to the car to recoup all of the extra time that we had spent activating on the summit. Before we set off for our second summit, we grabbed a tasty sandwich (Paul was once again on culinary duty) and a drink. The parking spot for Lingmoor Fell LD-040 was just ten minutes drive – here another £3.20 was saved in the Blea Tarn car park (NY295042) on account of me being a National Trust member. Parking at this popular spot had been another potential “worry” for me, but the car park was only half full when we arrived. It seemed October in the Lakes was going to be quite a relaxed affair.
A large percentage of the ascent of Lingmoor Fell is a steep grind and at almost mid-day it was now approaching 20C and the sun was doing its best to cook us. This meant that the 50 minutes allowed to ascend this hill stretched out to an hour, but we had some time in hand. At the summit, I chose to set up my pole fairly close to the summit cairn while Paul set up for HF using the fence nearby. Then rent-a-crowd appeared on the summit to have lunch!
Once again Paul was first on air and once again it was John G0TDM who was monitoring. Conditions on 5MHz were reasonable on the band and Paul worked a total of 16, with George GI4SRQ, Keith G7WCM and John GI0HWO getting in amongst the more regularly logged chasers. Just before 13:00z the frequency went quiet after a QSO with Don G0NES, so Paul moved to 80m and was soon found by Don and hence a much valued spot. However just two more calls were added to the log after Don – Tony G8BVJ and Steve GM7UAU.
Tony 2E0LAE was first up for me on this summit and he kindly spotted me. A steady run then ensued, 16 eventually making it into the log with John MW1FGQ making it on 70cms this time, but again not on 23cms. I had in mind to try to find Phil G1OPV/P on Longridge Fell G/SP-014, but Phil found me first. I was also extremely pleased to have an lengthy chat with Neil 2M0NCM/P on Colt Hill GM/SS-116. The activation took longer than I had allowed on the itinerary, but despite the steep angle of the route down, we made it back to the car in just 30 minutes which brought us back precisely onto schedule.
Our final summit of the day was Holme Fell LD-051, with the parking spot another NT car park at SD321998. We set out from the car park at 14:40z and navigated well through the partially wooded route until we got right to the summit area where a minor miscalculation added a few minutes to our ascent time. However, our followers were ready and waiting and it was my turn to make the first contact by working Roger G0TRB at 15:54. For me signals were definitely better on this summit and I managed a total of 12 on 2m SSB. A test on 23cms with John MW1FGQ proved again to be negative which was strange as the lump of Wetherlam was no longer on the path. I moved over to 70cms at 16:21 and worked Don G0RQL followed by Stewart G0LGS and John MW1FGQ. I then turned the beam vertical and worked Mike G4BLH on CW. I ran 10 watts on both bands to conserve power for the first summit in the morning – 4 power packs for 5 summits needs managing. Changing over to the Standard C520 at 16:35 I decided to make a rare appearance on 2m FM and worked Dougie G7CDA and Jim G4YLB. David G6LKB then called me and I suggested we make the QSO on 70cms FM and we managed this without a problem. Jim joined us to provide me with a sixth contact on the band. I went QRT at 16:55 well pleased with the varied activation.
Paul set up for HF just down from the summit and despite the relatively late hour had a superb run of 22 contacts on 5MHz. Once again G, GW, GM and GI made the log with a number of new calls in amongst the regulars including Alan GM3MWX. This was one summit that I did manage to get over to photograph Paul while he was operating. The light was fading as we concluded our activations and we were 25 minutes late leaving the summit, but still took the time to phone home to say we were fine and on our way down to the car.
It was 18:30z when we reached the Travelodge, which to our surprise was not at all busy. We were given two rooms more or less opposite one another and soon convened in Paul’s room for scoff and a debrief on the day’s events. For once the kit was left locked up in the car boot rather than spread out across the room drying out. How fortunate we were – an October activation could have been so different and the weather was set fair for the morrow.
The second day’s action was due to start at 05:00z – I was still having a cup of tea when Paul knocked on my door at 04:48z. I was running it fine having set my alarm for 04:35. Anyway we were away before time to find parking near to the High Close Youth Hostel. After a few minutes search we found a single parking spot at NY340053 around 100m south of the road junction leading to the hostel. We had to use the car lights to get ready, but when we started our ascent at 05:58 it was light enough to walk without the need for a headlamp. Opposite the road to the hostel we took the bridleway to the end of Loughrigg Terrace and then commenced the steep ascent to the summit of Loughrigg Fell G/LD-047. A couple of phone calls to our respective homes earned us both some Brownie points, especially in my case as it would be a working day for my wife.
We reached the summit at 06:30, fifteen minutes early and I was on air in good time using the trig to support my pole. My first call at 06:46 brought back Graham G4JZF at an excellent 59 followed by other regulars. Conditions were up and I decided to offer 70cms “on demand” as it is easy to do this with the single feeder to the dual band beam. Don G0RQL and Stewart G0LGS were soon in the 70cms log. I kept running on 2m and after working Mike G0BPU at 59 both ways, Marcel PD5MVH in JO22 called me followed by Pascal F6EAS in IN98 who actually showed as S9++ on the 857 S meter. Frank G3RMD was worked on 70cms after we made contact on 2m and Bob G6ODU tail-ended on 70cms to give me a fourth contact on the band to compliment the 17 that I eventually made on 2m SSB. I went QRT at 07:46.
It was a risk activating HF early in the morning and Paul found 5MHz asleep when he got onto the band. Aware of this possibility, Don G0RQL was keeping an ear open for Paul on 80m and found him at 07:00. The early hour provided Paul with a super activation that included contacts with Peter EI7CC, Mike DJ5AV, Juerg HB9BIN and Francis ON5QRP as well as a number of UK regulars. Paul finished off with contacts with John GW4BVE and Carolyn GW6WRW who were about to commence their ascent of Carn Gefallt GW/MW-040. By 07:30, the 5MHz alarm clock had gone off and Paul worked another 6 contacts on that band to add to the 15 on 80m.
The extra time spent activating brought us back to our scheduled time and the descent took just 27 minutes. We decided to prepare our kit for the big one before driving and so it was 08:46 by the time that we left the parking spot. There was very little traffic on the route through Grasmere – it appeared the place was full of retired people walking off the effects of yet another English breakfast! Well why not? – the sun was shining and it was now a very pleasant day indeed.
We parked up at Wythburn at 08:56 and shelled out £5.00 for the honour of parking there. At least it was only half full – another “worry” dispelled. Despite having prepared our kit, we managed to be 8 minutes later than scheduled in starting our ascent. The path up Helvellyn G/LD-003 from Wythburn is a pedestrian motorway which winds its way up the hillside at varying degrees of steepness. The initial section in the woods is moderate to steep followed by a twisty section, some relief then being gained on a flatter section before a climb up to Comb Crags and then flatter over to Birk Side. Thereafter the gradient eased, but the legs were now tiring on what was our fifth summit in two days. Fortunately the weather was absolutely superb and the regular stops to let tired legs recover allowed us to view the surrounding hills and lakes from different angles. It was also getting warmer and by the time we reached the col below the summit, I was beginning to regret having kept my fleece on for the ascent. We reached the summit at 11:20 and moved beyond to the plateau area to set up our stations.
Paul operated 2m SSB from the summit, holding the pole between his knees while operating. Knowing I would be both sitting and standing to operate 70cms and 23cms, I bungied my pole to a small rock and used my backpack for extra support. There was hardly a breath of wind across the summit, so this set up worked well. I was pleased to get my fleece off and cool down as the temperature was now approaching 20C.
Mike G4BLH was once again out near Pinhaw Beacon to work us and I heard Paul contact him at 11:40 as I was finalising the set up of my station. Next up was Geoff G4WHA, also up on high ground near Penrith. John G0TDM was the first operating from home to work Paul and thereafter the run continued at a very steady pace with contacts made around G, GW, GM and GI. In all 24 contacts were made in just under 50 minutes which was an excellent achievement on a weekday. Many people passed their congratulations on Paul achieving Mountain Goat as I had let slip the news during the activation on Loughrigg earlier. Paul finished the run of contacts with a QSO with Mark MM1MPB in Annan and then called CQ for a while before starting to pack up.
On 70cms SSB, Mike G4BLH was also my first contact, but signals were only 51 both ways. Moving to 23cms, we made contact at 59 both ways, so revealing a serious fault on the kit for the lower band. While I was on 23cms, both John MW1FGQ and Geoff G4WHA/M tail-ended the contact. Back on 70cms, I set about trying to determine what the problem was and ended having a run of contacts with the driven element just handheld at head height. Using this simple antenna I made a contact with Steve G1INK/P on Shining Tor G/SP-004 at 59 both ways. Eventually I traced the fault to the SMA to BNC patch lead and once I had changed this the contacts resumed using the beam once more. Not having worked Frank G3RMD on SSB, I tried CW and was immediately rewarded with a contact. Better still, Reg G3WPF followed on to bring the total on 70cms to a respectable 9. Having concluded his activation, Paul wandered over to see how I was getting on and this prompted me to break out the Medoc that I had carried up and which was now nicely at the correct temperature for drinking. Unfortunately we had to put up with plastic cups, but it tasted good nonetheless.
As I packed up, I couldn’t resist a quick call on 2m FM using the C520 and Yaesu rubber duck. This got me into a short run that provided chaser points for Geoff G6MZX, Roger G0MWE and Ron GW4EVX as well as extra QSOs for David G6LKB and John G0TDM. We were ready for the descent at 13:22, somewhat later than planned, but again made rapid progress to get back to the car in 90 minutes. It was our feet that took the beating on the descent and we were extremely relieved to get fresh socks and shoes on. We then had a leisurely lunch before pulling out of the car park and heading home – it was 16:30, precisely on schedule!
The journey home was uneventful and we arrived slightly early at Stourbridge despite having stopped to refuel near Kendal. After unloading and a quick coffee, I got back on the road again and reached home at 20:18z which provided me with plenty of time to unpack and sort a few things out before retiring for some well-earned sleep.
So five more LD’s despatched, Paul now a Mountain Goat and two very successful days of activating undertaken… and superb weather to boot. Many thanks to everyone that came on to work us and to those that placed spots. We always appreciate what you do for us when we are out on the hills. The next sortie will take us back to the NP’s in mid-November, with NP completion by the end of the year the target. Hopefully we will work some of you then!
73, Gerald G4OIG