Whernside G/NP-004, remained as the only NP region summit that I had activated and Jimmy hadn’t. With the early summer heatwave reminding us a splendid day out on Ingleborough G/NP-005 just over a year ago, my mind focussed on the last of the Three Peaks of Yorkshire needed as a unique by Jimmy.
A prompt get-up at 6am on Saturday 10th May 2008 saw me filling the water bladders and cooking the soup - quite a reserved selection by us today - Oxtail! That done, I got Liam up and loaded the car. With Jimmy M3EYP completing the team, we were away promptly at 7am, safely avoiding Marianne returning from her night-shift and leaving her a nice quiet empty house in which to sleep.
We had originally wanted to make good early time, and so had a cereal bar at home for breakfast. Big mistake! Or tummies were rumbling so hard by the time we drove through Knutsford, that I decreed we were going to Lymm Truck Stop anyway! We didn’t have full English breakfasts, but sausage and black pudding breakfast baps, with mugs of tea went down most agreeably.
We made good progress along the M6, and Jimmy went into navigator mode as we exited at J34. I know this route pretty well now, but it was nice to be able to relax in the knowledge that every turning would be announced to me with the precision timing of the best SatNavs on the market.
The Dales were looking magnificent, bathed in sunshine on this fine Saturday morning. We drove past the Old Hill Inn at Chapel-le-Dale and onto the Station Inn at Ribblehead. Arriving there just before 10am BST, most of the feasible parking spots had gone. There were hundreds of cars in the area. It seemed it was the day of the Fellsman event around the three peaks, as well as the hoards of walkers and hang-gliders that had been tempted out by the fine weather.
My previous activation of Whernside had seen me approach from the west, between it and Great Coum G/NP-011. However, I had fancied the “long route” for a while. We walked down the track from the Station Inn to the arches of the Ribblehead Viaduct. There were loads of people down here as well, some even setting up camp. Continuing along the path as it climbed up beside the railway line, we came across a checkpoint and control team for the Fellsman event. A lady’s voice called out to Jimmy: “Are you doing the SOTA?”. It was Judy, XYL of Phil 2E0PHL. We had a quick chat, and then pressed on up along the Settle-Carlisle railway line. We passed by the signal box, then crossed the railway on a large bridge just before the tracks disappeared into a tunnel.
The good path followed a cascading stream and then a curving line around to pick up the main Whernside ridge. This was good easy walking, and clearly a very popular route. As we joined the north end of the ridge, a little light rain started, enough to force us to don our jackets, but not enough to force us to zip them up! Fleeces remained in our rucksacks - it was a very warm morning. Liam was starting to cheer up after his customary grumpy start to the ascent. He was now giggling away as he recalled the previous evening’s episode of Teenage Kicks, apparently his new favourite programme!
Another short steep haul brought us onto the long flat path across Whernside’s summit ridge. By the time we caught Jimmy up at the trig point, he had already made five contacts using his handheld radio. We set up the SOTA Beam, and lazed around in the sun. Liam had walked well, and we were thus a good 45 minutes ahead of schedule. I was originally going to use just handheld and RSS, but the time bonus, together with the lovely weather (the sun was back out and the rain didn’t last long) encouraged me to linger. The FT-817 and SOTA Beam was unleashed, and many stations were worked on 2m FM. A switch to 2m CW brought only G4BLH, despite a live spot on SOTAwatch being provided by M0LMP.
At twenty to three, I decided to pack up and head off. This was a circular route, so we continued southwards off the summit ridge, and steeply down the wide stony track, until eventually gaining some relief for our knees upon hitting the flatter grassier farmland below. From here, we still had a couple of miles to walk, along The Scar, through Winterscales and Gunnerfleet farms and back through the Ribblehead Viaduct to the Station Inn. It was easy going, but we were now tired. Liam had done very well with this 9-mile circuit.
We dumped our packs, poles and boots in the car, then stepped back across the road to sample The Station Inn before commencing the return drive to Macclesfield. Sadly, the label on the Copper Dragon Ale pump was turned inwards, but the Black Sheep Bitter was on fine form. This was accompanied, perfectly, by one of the pork & black pudding pies that were on the bar and causing irresistible temptation, and subsequent satisfaction - recommended. Jimmy also partook in one with his glass of water, while Liam preferred an apple & blueberry J2O with a Pepperami Firestick. Well, there’s nothing like a touch of class. And that, Liam, was nothing like a touch of class!
The drive home was uneventful save for a series of matrix signs warning of long delays around J19. We ignored them on this very quiet M6, and got to J19 (Knutsford) without delay. We were home for 7.30pm, and ordering a curry take-away. Then I remembered I was going out activating again in little more than two hours! I was very tired, but looking forward to it. The lamb madras and rose wine went down very well as I eagerly anticipated my imminent chauffuer-driven activation outing to The Cloud G/SP-015.
Thanks to all stations that called.
Tom M1EYP, Jimmy M3EYP & Liam