Wednesday, 13 February 2019

G4OBK 2018 ARRL DXCC Challenge Submission

I've just submitted my annual DXCC endorsement claim to the ARRL. Whilst I hadn't been particularly active in 2018 hunting DX stations I have been more active as a DXer than in recent years, with my main interest at present in Amateur Radio remaining in Summits On The Air (SOTA)In the course of the year I managed to pick up 19 Logbook of the World (LoTW) credits. This was mainly due to two reasons - the newly developed Machine Mode called FT8, where I have used the WSJT-X software over HF radio to provide datamode credits. When the ARRL allowed Kosovo into the DXCC scheme as a valid country this encouraged me get back on and try to work that country on all bands.

So this was how my 2018 claim worked out:


I decided not to submit paper QSLs this year as I only have two, and the cost of an on-line submission with field checking in the UK by Lionel G5LP would cost me an inflationary $20 plus postage, just for two QSL cards to be checked! The cost of submitting the 19 credits for checking via LoTW however was a more economical $14.27.

This year I claimed Z6 Kosovo as a new DXCC Country in LoTW in Mixed, Phone, CW and Data modes and with DXCC Challenge counters on all bands completed from 160m through to 6m, barring the 10m band for which I have a paper QSL for a contact with Z61DX. The other paper QSL I received this year (Thanks to RU4SS) was for a contact with EZ8BO (Turkmenistan) on the 12 metre band in 2004. Amateur radio has been banned in that country now for some years and the operator Eugeny is now "silent key". 
I remember all the DX contacts claimed very well - a few were routine, such as HB9CXZ Switzerland on 160m FT8 - my first HB9 credit for a datamode surprisingly...  The other datamode confirmations (thanks to the new FT8 mode) were BH1TSU China (17m), ZP6ARO Parguay (20m), D44TWO Cape Verde (160m), RI1ANL Antarctica (15m) and PJ4P (17m) and a new counter point for the DXCC Challenge. 

After I cleared up Kosovo for the DXCC Challenge bands, additionally I worked 9K2NO Kuwait on 6m CW, VK9XG Christmas Island on 80m CW and lastly EP6RRC Iran on 30m CW for three more Challenge Points putting me at 2928 Challenge Points and No. 1 Honour Roll Phone / Mixed Mode with all 340 DXCC Countries confirmed. In CW the two countries I haven't yet worked are P5 North Korea and FT\W Crozet Island. 


I now need 72 DXCC Challenge Points to reach my lifetime target of 3000 points.  It remains to be seen if this is achievable with my current station, as this is entirely dependent on the effects of the sun on the next one or two solar cycles and for how long into old age that I am able to continue operating. 

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Hensbarrow Beacon - Cornwall in a day from Wales

I was in Cardiff on business last week and this presented an opportunity for me to re-visit the newly positioned summit of G/DC-008 Hensbarrow Beacon, near St Austell, Cornwall. This meant driving 380 miles return from Cardiff via Bristol, where I met up with my friend Geoff Fielding M0PYG who lives near Malvern. We were together the last time we activated Hensbarrow in 2014 for SOTA. That operation was from the trig point in a thunder and lightning storm, when Geoff got flashed with static, a quite frightening experience when green sparks were travelling from the shaft of his umbrella on to his hand! In 2014 on that same day we also activated Brown Willy near Jamaica Inn - but there was no point going there again today for the sake of a few points. 

Quote from Wikipedia via CCL:
"Geographically, the hill is also the highest point of the St Austell Downs, a large region of downland to the north-west of St Austell. The large degree of separation between it and Bodmin Moor to the north-east gives it enough relative height to make it a natural Marilyn, although the official Marilyn has been moved to the top of the highest spoil tip. (its parent is Brown Willy)"
The reason I had to return to this God forsaken place was to set my station up among some rocks on the highest point on the spoil heap which was created by the Littlejohn / Gunheath China Clay Mining company and re-complete activating all 175 English summits. This is the Cornwall most visitors coming here never see - the exploitation of the land for minerals but of course Cornwall has has this exploitation for centuries.


In 2017 the Relative Hills of Britain group surveyed the area and determined that the official position of the Marilyn Summit be moved to the top of the spoil heap. As this is in excess of 25 meters height above the trig point, then the SOTA reference point was also moved. This meant that I was no longer the only SOTA Activator to activate and chase all English Summits - no one had actually "done it" when I had before - hence the need to re-visit the area and do it again... 

I met Geoff at Cribbs Causeway Retail Park, North Bristol at 8.00 am, and from there I drove us both down the M5 and A30 to reach a turn off at a new service area near Roche.  The summit car parking place at SW 992575 is less than 4 miles from the A30 roundabout.  The map above shows the path we took passing the original summit position. We saw a gap in the bank to the east of the trig and that led us on to the spoil heap access track and one on that it was an easy climb on to the top of the heap. A pile of large stones marked "Boulders" on the map rovided some cover from the wind and the rain, when it came.  Our return path follows the mine company's roads and no vehicles or persons were seen in the time we were there. 
Miserable weather walking on Hensbarrow Beacon - the nearest highest point to Brown Willy

Geoff M0PYG by the boulders where we set up the station
Looking towards the freshly painted trig point with the spoil heap and the new summit behind it
 
HF Contacts completed from Hensbarrow Beacon by G4OBK/P on 24 January 2019
A shout on 2m FM with a handheld and whip raised Don G0RQL in Holsworthy. After that nothing else was heard, so we set up on 40m (7 MHz) for CW and SSB and made another 34 contacts between us. The rain came on half way through the HF operation so my golf umbrella was deployed to keep the rain off the FT-857 - 50 watts to a link dipole.

We had some lunch at the services on the A30 before heading back to Bristol where Geoff had parked his car. 

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Two days activating SOTA in the Scottish Borders - Ward Law GM/SS-119

A poor walk route up on the right side and a good route coming down on the left side of the map
I don't recommend the route I took climbing up to Ward Law - poor ground for walking over and onwards from Ramseycleuch Kip into a depression on rough ground, before climbing again.
On the ascent of Ward Law - before the ground got rough Ramseycleuch Farm is at the bottom of the hill
When I reached the summit I found a ladder stile, a deer fence and the Jubilee Cairn - not just a rough pile of stones like I had encountered on Ettrick Pen earlier that day. I set up initially on 2m FM with my handheld and dipole and immediately heard Colin M1BUU/P calling CQ SOTA from the summit of G/NP-004 Whernside - first contact summit to summit which bode well for a successful activation.  Next call it was Derek Edge 2E0MIX in Whitehaven, good DX for the equipment used at my end for sure.... 20 minutes later when the FM radio signal broke the squelch it was a call from G3TQQ/P - so I left HF CW to one side for a couple of minutes to work another two S2S contacts - Nick G4OOE with Dave G3TQQ who were both on G/NP-016 Dodd Fell. That was me done on 2m FM, so like on Ettrick Pen earlier, the summit could have been qualified with just 5 watts and a dipole on VHF thanks to other operators mainly operating from high places.  Good to see that part of the radio spectrum getting plenty of attention in Northern England and Southern Scotland by the SOTA gang...
Summit of Ward Law - 5m pole inverted vee link dipole - KX2
15 contacts on 20m and 40m CW: USA (2) and EU (13) were worked

From the summit when it was time to leave, I looked below for where the sheep were grazing and headed for them, grazing on the few green areas of grass left on the flank of the hill. It was far drier and smoother than my chosen route up for sure - and an effective quad track was found leading to the sheepfold at NT 26181524 (Slightly out of position on the OS 1:25K map). I had parked in the parking area at NT 273142, but on reflection I would have been better parking at the former School or Memorial Hall at 266144 and climbing the hill from there, the way I came down.
The sheepfold I made for at NT 26181524 (Slightly out of position on the OS 1:25K map)
Walk started 12:57 - Ward Law reached at 14:04 - 67 minutes.
Ward Law departed 15:09 -  my vehicle reached south of Ettrick at 16:03 - 54 minutes.

The GPX track was shared in the SOTA Mapping Project, and I recommend the downward route.

Below the sheepfold mentioned looking to the row of houses (No access) and sheep pens to the right
The white house on the extreme right middle is Ettrickhill NT 2627 1440

I'll be heading up north again as soon as I get the chance, and will stay overnight at the Tushielaw Inn, Ettrick Valley again. The evening meal and bed and breakfast were excellent - too excellent in fact, I ate too much. Next time I will be targeting Broad Law SS-029, Dun Rig SS-052 and Deuchar Law SS-144. Let's hope the snow stays away, I don't enjoy getting cold sat on the top of a snowy summit.

Two days activating SOTA in the Scottish Borders - Ettrick Pen GM/SS-074

My walk route
After a good nights kip and big breakfast at the Tushielaw Inn in the Ettrick Valley I drove south west to the end of the road near Potburn and parked at NT 189092 - which is the end of the public road.  On the way I passed by Ward Law - a summit I planned to climb in the afternoon. 
Parking place for Ettrick Pen
Unoccupied farmstead at Potburn
The steady walk to the summit took me 75 minutes and I stopped off to look inside the Over Phawhope Bothy at 181081 and meet Maud from Edinburgh by chance, who had just got up after staying overnight in the bothy. The bothy was extremely cosy and Maud told me she'd slept on the sofa in the property overnight.

Over Phawhope Bothy - inside & out
Proceeding on the track gave way to moor near the sheepfold shown on the map at 190076 and I found a foot beaten track around some newly planted trees which took me up towards the fenceline and then south east to the highest point where the three fences meet and where there is a big pile of stones for shelter. The route taken has been shared in the tracks section of the SOTA Mapping Project. 
The pile of stones on Ettrick Pen
I set up and spent 45 minutes on the air. I could have qualified this summit with my VX-170 handheld and vertical on 2m FM - five contacts were made with this, including a summit contact with G4OOE and G3TQQ on G/NP-015 Great Knoutberry Hill in the Yorkshire Dales. The 40m band kept me busy though, with 26 EU callers in Morse but only 2 contacts on phone, despite repeated CQ calls. I gave up at 11:16z and packed up, reaching my car at 12:28z for my lunch prior to driving back up the valley for the final summit of my two day trip, Ward Law.  

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Two days activating SOTA in the Scottish Borders - Law Kneis GM/SS-168

Parking for Law Kneis by B709 NT 280130 - exit on foot via frosty footbridge to Forest Track - Start 14:30 return 17:30. 
My research on climbing Law Kneis led me to the walkhighlands sub2000s web page where I found several "tales of woe" describing efforts from hillwalkers who had climbed it. In the end I opted for the steep and awkward climb by the side of White Sike burn to reach the forest track. I then followed an awkward and difficult forest ride to the summit itself. You'll see from the map that I did not return alongside White Sike - it was too dangerous to contemplate descending this way in the dark, the wide graded forestry track traversing the side of Deephope Hill was an excellent alternative, and as I was walking down I wished I had gone up that way:

I don't recommend the rough walk route up by White Sike. Future activators may have no choice but to tackle the forest ride which heads east from 286133 though, unless they know of anything easier. There were around 10 fallen trees to negotiate in this forest gap on the ride and the boggy sections were all frozen, so it wasn't all bad - not that I will be returning for what is just a one point 498m high summit.
At NT 286133 on the graded track looking down on the Angecroft Cottage Caravan Site 
As I exited the forest almost on the highest point it was approaching dusk and I found a place along the old fence. The posts were rotten, but strong enough to support my aerial pole and home brew link dipole:


Darkness fell and my headlight was used to allow me to continue the activation....



HF operation on 20m, 30m and 40m was successful, 18 contacts were completed, including K3TCU and K4DY in USA. The usual lightweight KX2 and link dipole at 5m AGL were used.  Unsurprisingly from such a remote place, VHF with a handheld with long whip fastened to the fence post was ineffective. Constant monitoring on 145.500 MHz for almost an hour proved fruitless...


Here is the bag I won in the SOTA raffle at Ham Radio in 2018 - I use it stowing my aerial etc in my rucksack:


Walking off was most enjoyable with the headlight illuminating the sparkling frost in the ground surface throughout the length of the forest ride. The decision to take the safer track pictured above was made - once I overcame the bad step down the bank on to it. My car was reached exactly 3 hours after leaving it. The GPX track for this route both ways is lodged in the SOTA Mapping Project Tracks page. 

Two days activating SOTA in the Scottish Borders - White Coomb GM/SS-030

The long range weather forecast on New Years Eve was settled for several days ahead so I decided then to have an early start on January 2nd and head back up to Scotland to visit summits I had seen, but not climbed.  I booked in for an overnight stay at the Tushielaw Inn, which lies in the Ettrick Valley - a pub which is surrounded by Marilyn Summits, some of which I had already climbed.  The pub had been fully booked for the New Years Eve festivities, but the landlord Rab told me on the phone there were vacancies the following night, when I was the only resident and as it turned out, was the only customer having a meal and enjoying a few drinks.   

Tushielaw Inn
On my way to the pub I climbed White Coomb GM/SS-030 near Moffat and Law Kneis GM/SS-168 which is only three miles south of the pub. 


Leaving Pickering at 5.50 am, I was walking from the Grey Mares Tail Car Park in Moffat Dale to White Coomb at 9.20 am. Car parking is £3 per day or free if you are a National Trust Member. The popular route up to Loch Skene was quiet and empty as I climbed up beside the waterfall following the Tail Burn. The temperature when I started my walk was -4.5c, on what was a clear and beautiful morning. Without paying attention to the map of my proposed route I continued on the path for almost a kilometre more than I should have done, crossing the Tail Burn just before I reached Loch Skeen and then doubling back on myself across the moorland to rejoin the beaten path just below Rough Crags.  My navigational error made me late and I reached the summit after almost two hours walking at 11.15 am.  I stayed on the summit for one hour. It was cold even in the sun - but not unpleasant. The summit was visited by just one other walker while I was there. From 11:30 until 12:00 I operated on the 145 MHz FM band for SOTA and completed 20 contacts using 50 watts of power to a vertical dipole on a 5m pole. The contacts included summit contacts with G4VFL/PAndrew  on Shillhope Law, 2E0MIX Derek on Blake Fell and G4OOE Nick with G3TQQ Dave, on Great Mell Fell. The map below shows the contacts made - the one mapping error is the contact shown in the banner. This was with G4YTD/P Tim, who was not near Hull where he lives, but Tim was actually in a camper van near Penrith!




My routes both ways -  The contacts made on 2m FM - The summit with my aerial in the cairn
I took the more direct and correct route back, following a broken wall down to the Tail Burn, where a crossing was again made. It was just a case of climbing down this bank and crossing where the burn looked the shallowest:


Once on the main path it was like a procession. 2nd January is a Bank Holiday in Scotland and there were tens of people making their way up to Loch Skeen alongside Grey Mares Tail. The earlier empty car park was now rammed with car, vans and campers when I reached it at 13:30, after taking 75 minutes to get back down from the summit:

I now had a 22 mile drive to the parking place from which to climb to the remote summit of Law Kneis GM/SS-168. On my drive there by St Mary's Loch I was to hear G4OOE and G3TQQ on t2m FM again whilst driving - and completed a mobile contact with them when they were activating from the summit of Little Mell Fell.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

My Amateur Radio SOTA Review of 2018 at G4OBK

Phil (G4OBK) has had a very active year in amateur radio and in particular taking part in Summits On The Air (SOTA). I have done a lot of work to improve my radio station at home and I believe this has paid off.

In the shack today with Treacle:

On the hill - on the way to White Coomb GM/SS-030 last week:


Fixed & Portable Stations:

Portable:
My Activator station equipment remained the same as it did in 2017:
HF Rigs - Yaesu FT-857 - Elecraft KX2 - YouKIts HB1B with 20/30/40m link dipole on 5m pole
VHF Rigs - Yaesu FT1500M (50 watts) - VX-170 (5 watts) - FT270 (5 watts) with vertical end fed dipole on 5m pole or RH770 handheld whip on the handhelds.

Fixed:
My Chaser station equipment was upgraded considerably in 2018 as a result of getting back on the air from a new QTH on 1st Jan 2017.

Aerials:
The most important part of the station after being there…

It took 15 months and an appeal to the England & Wales Government Planning Inspectorate to secure permission to erect a 12m high Tennamast in my back garden to support a Hexbeam and a 4m/6m dual band yagi. These aerials were in place by June 2018. The coaxial feeds are all Ecoflex 15 buried in the ground in BT ducting where possible. I continued to use an 80m band OCF dipole I erected in a tree in 2017, however I improved the feed arrangements for that, and raised it in the tree I have to a greater height of 48 feet. In September I fixed a 7m pole to the opposite side of the same tree and fed that from the tree base as an inverted L with a 50 feet vertical section and 80 feet long top wire at an average height of 45 feet. I now have approximately 1500 feet around and in my garden to tune the inverted L against. This aerial I use on the 160m and 60m bands. On 144 MHz I continued using a Wimo 2m 7+7 cross yagi fixed to the house. The two rotators I have are Yaesu G-1000DXC and G-450C.

All base station radio’s used for chasing were purchased secondhand in the last 5 years:

HF Rigs: Yaesu FTDX5000 (2010 model), Icom 7300 (2016 model), Icom 7400 (2009 model), Yaesu FT-1802 (Age not known).

The FTDX5000 is in daily use on HF up to 50 MHz, the IC7300 is my HF backup and also provides the 70 MHz band, the IC7400 has just been used this year on 2m CW/SSB. The only transceiver purchased this year came from a ham in Northern Ireland - this is the IC7300 which I collected at the Blackpool Rally in April. I had one major repair to pay for in 2018 - this was replacement of the two MRF150 PA devices in the FTDX5000 which went POP in the autumn for no apparent reason when I was running with 120 watts on FT8 on the 12m band. Yaesu UK did the repair which took just two weeks. Good job.
So how did I do with all this equipment in my armoury? Well with more I time on my hands having fully retired at the end of March from my work as a Magistrate I spent more time in the shack, and ended the year 8 pounds heavier than when I started the year! Yes, sat on my backside in the shack does no good for keeping ones weight down… Unfortunately family members bought me chocolate, licourice and toffee for Xmas and I am slowly getting through that afterwhich I will make an effort to cut down on eating rubbish. Activating helped I’m sure to keep some weight from going on, so I hate to think what my weight would have been with without it! I was 66 in November, and the older age and extra weight means I have noticed that I am now slower climbing to the summits than I was when I stated SOTA activating in 2005.

Stats:

My combined QSO total in 2018 was 6090 contacts with 136 DXCC Countries.
Out of the 6090 contacts 3189 were CW, 2311 Phone and 590 were DATA. I started using FT8 in March, to supplement my RTTY and PSK31 operating. Hence the higher than usual DATA QSO total this year. Just a handful of these FT8 contacts were SOTA Chaser QSOs however.
Total fixed station QSOs (Mainly Chaser contacts) were 4184.
Total Activator QSOs made operating from 9 countries in two continents were 1906.
As an all round SOTA operator I increased my SOTA Complete total to 741 by adding 143 SOTA Completes. This was helped by activations in VK2 (With VK2IO), OK (with GI4ONL and OK2PDT), and a holiday tour to Friedrichshafen with my XYL taking in activations in FL, DM, ON and OE (with OE9HRV). I further added a few activation days in GW (Solo and with M0PYG) and in GM (Solo and with M0PYG).
I made 17401 Chaser points in the year and was top All G scorer.
I made 756 Activator point in 2018 and was top G scorer, but was beaten by GI4ONL in the All G activator category.

Looking forward to 2019 I have several Tours already booked, and I must get back to Hensbarrow Beacon later this month when I am in South Wales to Re-Complete England.The fell top assessors (The Meddlers) moved the summit reference from the trig point to the top of the slag heap some time ago and I haven’t yet got back there. I believe no one else has Completed England, so I must go back and retain my mantle!

Plans for 2019 are already made with overseas tours planned for March, May and IN July to coincicide with the Tour de France in the FL/VO region. Thee may be something for September, we will see how the year passes and decide later.

Health:

Reasonable with a few issues - I have a minor cardiac issue - an irregular heartbeat which surfaced a few months ago after I submitted myself to a general anaesthetic to check for Prostate Cancer, of which I am clear. However, during the tests it was discovered that I have this irregular heartbeat, so the GP has put me on a tablet for it to thin my blood as the GP says I am more likely to succumb to a stroke because of it. We carry on in SOTA activating for a few years more… I cannot see me ever giving up SOTA Chasing which I really enjoy also. As a walker anyway I continue being a part of Ryedale Walking Group of which I am the 2019 Membership Secretary. I organise at least one holiday every year for the walking group which usually includes SOTA activating as part of it.

The SOTA MT get my heartfelt thanks for all they provide by way of the SOTA infrastructure, reflector, database, website, awards and the SMP (So useful - thanks Rob DM1CM, also Andy MM0FMF for providing the much improved SOTA Cluster and to the many activators who share their information to help others via blogs, the reflector, personal messages and in the tracks page of the SMP.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

SOTA GM/SS-139 Cairnkinna Hill

I was staying in the Lake District for a short pre-Xmas break and decided to venture north of the border into Dumfries & Galloway to activate some unique (to us) SOTA summits. My friend from Malvern, Geoff M0PYG, headed north up the M6 and we met at Rheged near Penrith at 9.00 am on Tuesday 11th December. 

Our ambitious plan was to activate two summits in Scotland that day - in the event we only activated one.  Due to the lack of daylight remaining we headed back to the Lake District to activate an easy summit there at 5.00 pm. 

Cairnkinna Hill was the target - a 554 metre hill seven miles north west of Thornhill. We parked up off a narrow lane in a small worked out quarry at NS787005:


We had fine drizzle and mist as we set off uphill through the remains of an old wood. The walking was tough with bramble and brash underfoot but once we reached the broken wall at 789004 things became a little easier, albeit at a slow pace, on what was initially a steep climb.  It took 84 minutes to reach the trig point and large cairn on the summit, which was longer than I anticipated for what was a distance of under 1.5 miles.

We easily made the required number of contacts on VHF (145 MHz) to qualify the summit for SOTA and then made our way back to the car.
Geoff M0PYG at our operating position behind the cairn of Cairnkinna Hill - equiment used was Yaesu FT-1802 - a 50 watt transceiver and half wave dipole on a 5m high pole

Our plan was to then go east and climb Queensberry GM/SS-072, however time, daylight and the weather was against us, so we headed back south to the Lake District to activate Little Mell Fell G/LD-037, before returning to our hotel for showers and a dinner.

Friday, 16 November 2018

SOTA GM/SS-161 Larriston Fells Cycle / Walk

SOTA Cycling - is it worthwhile?

In this blog report I will try to analysis if SOTA Cycling is really worth it....

After leaving the track to Calkin Rig the nearest town to which is Langholm, I motored over to Newcastleton which is the nearest significant settlement to SOTA GM/SS-161 Larriston Fells. The plan was to park at the end of the track at NY 529921 near Dinlabyre and then cycle up the Scottish side on a forest track to within 1 Km of the summit trig point on Larriston Fells. From the radio mast I would then walk. 

When I reached Hermitage Bridge, 3 miles from Dinlabyre there was a road closure due to resurfacing work:


An approach to the road worker sat in his van stopping traffic worked, and I was allowed to drive as far as where the road was being resurfaced. I was able to get my car off the road there and ride the rest of the way on the bike to Dinlabyre and onto to the summit track.  Here is my route:



Parking place by the resurfaced B6357 road a miles from Dinlabyre
Progress riding the bike was slow once I left the main road, and on a significant part of the steeper uphill stretches I was forced to push. I'm apparently not so fit now as I was a year or two ago.... When I reached the radio mast and comms cabin where the track ended, I laid the bike down, locked it and proceeded to the trig point on foot. The mast is not within the activation zone. 


There was no trace of any path (a dotted line is shown on the map but was not apparent on the ground) and it was difficult making progress on the rough and boggy moor. Not a route I would recommend, I certainly would not return here again. The day was becoming damp with thick mist forming and I was uncomfortable after putting my leg in a hole full of water on the walk back from Calkin Rig in the morning. I knew when I reached the summit I did not want to stay longer than necessary..... the going on the tussocks was so difficult to be honest, I may have been better setting up at the fence around NY 564917 which was within the 25m drop zone, however when I got there I was thankful of the trig for shelter from the bitter wind and also the shelf beside it which was dry for sitting on and the right height for bending forward and sending the Morse.  There was good coverage at Larriston on the Vodafone network so I was able to spot myself using SOTA Spotter. I only operated on the 40m band on Larriston, cutting my operating time down to 20 minutes due to the failing light and the cold. I heard Don G0RQL in Devon give me a courtesy call at the end of my brief 40m SSB session, Don was 5 & 4 but the lack of power at my end - 10 watts from a KX2, meant there was no chance of a 2 way QSO unfortunately... the only UK station actually worked was the CW QRS operator David G0FVH:  


Relying on my GPS for direction, I headed back to the radio mast which had disappeared into the mist, relishing the thought of the quick ride back down the hill and the clean dry pair of socks waiting for me back at the car! As I made my way back I fell forward at one stage whilst negotiating a peat hag, no injury fortunately for me, just a moan and a groan as I continued on my way! If I had been using my normal walking poles I wouldn't have fallen like that. 

The summit - Larriston Fells GM/SS-161 - now activated 17 times - no view today - the Scottish Border lies less than 1 Km away to the south east of the summit 
I hardly peddled on my way down, reaching speeds of around 30 MPH on the rough track, It was a little foolhardy really as I wasn't wearing a helmet.  I reached the car just after 4.00 pm and the road had re-opened to traffic. It took me just 4 hours to drive home, which included a fast food refuelling stop at the KFC near the M6 roundabout at Penrith. 

Going back to my heading on this blog - was cycling to the summit worthwhile - in terms of the time saved? 

Ride and walk out = 4.6 miles 
Time taken = 96 minutes  (68 minutes ride/push & 28 minutes walk)

Walk and ride back = 4.7 miles 
Time taken = 47 minutes (21 minutes ride & 26 minutes walk) 

Before I rode back down the hill I had to ride around this concrete perimeter track:

https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/453337 and I am not the only one to wonder why this concrete circle was laid on a desolate near the Lothians & Borders Police radio mast - does anyone know? 

So what time did I save by riding and walking to this summit? At my normal walking pace on the track I estimate the total distance of 3.9 miles would have taken me 75 minutes walking time on the track and the same 28 minutes on the moor - so by using the bike I saved myself just 7 minutes on the upward journey. 

However, the return is different. On the downhill run at my normal walk pace I estimate it would have taken me 65 minutes walking time plus the same 26 minutes to negotiate the moor on foot.  So by using the bike on the return journey I saved myself another 45 minutes. 

So to sum up I reckon on this summit I saved myself around 1 hour by cycling Larriston Fell, however there are drawbacks - I needed to clean the bike the next day, as well as my rucksack which was mud splattered from the fast downward run. The other drawback is that when cycling on tracks, particularly at the easily reached speeds achieved (in excess of 25 mph) when riding downhill you are more at risk of an accident.  Other drawbacks are the fuel consumption on my car on what was a 320 mile journey with the bike on the carrier at the back causing drag. This means my diesel estate car only achieves around 45 mpg, when without the bike on the back I would likely get around 50 mpg.  I was unable to carry my walking poles on the bike - they would have been useful walking on the rough moor and would have likely prevented my falling into the murk - so another drawback there. The final drawback as I see it, is that when riding the bike it was not practical to wear my knee length walking gaiters - these are essential when walking on the type of rough wet moorland on border summits like Larriston Fell. Yes, I could have bagged the gaiters up and carried them in the rucksack and donned them before the moorland section, but I never the realised how rough and wet that moor would be....

So with hindsight, I have concluded for the purpose of saving just one hour in time I should have left the bike at home and walked the whole distance to the summit of Larriston Fell.  Walking the whole way would have meant I would have arrived back home at 9.00 pm rather than 8.00 pm. In terms of physical energy used, I have concluded there would not have been much difference in the effort expounded, whether walking the whole distance or cycling and walking the remaining distance across the moor.