Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Winter Hill activation G/SP-010 23 June 2015

I had some business to attend to in Chorley Lancs, so at short notice I decided to activate Winter Hill G/SP-010 (1 point) on my way back to North Yorkshire. The summit lies between Bolton and Chorley on the West Lancashire Moors.

I left the M61 junction 6 near a prominent football ground at exactly 2.00pm and rejoined it at 4.00pm following this activation. The time spent on air was just over one hour and this produced 19 contacts - mostly on the 28 MHz, 10m band. 

Parking up on Winter Hill - within activation zone 
The summit houses many communications installations including the main terrestrial TV Transmitter for North West England. My previous visit involved a walk of several miles. This time I simply drove up to the activation zone via grid reference SD 653122 (Makinson Moor) and parked in a footpath junction gateway just before the TV mast at SD 660143. I then walked 300m to the same point at 440m ASL as where I activated this summit in October 2008. The highest point on the plateau is at the trig point within the gated communications site at 456m ASL. 

Conditions were reasonable on the ten meter band so I made a good number of EU and UK contacts for the 2015 SOTA Challenge. I used 70 watts output from my FT-857 to a link dipole, and then added a few contacts on 20m CW. I count the best QSO as being on 28.470 MHz SSB with my friend from Bregenz, Herbert OE9HRV/P, who was on the summit of OE/VB-524 Zwerms.

G4OBK/P SOTA Operation near to the flagged public footpath - the moor is boggy but very popular with walkers and cyclists from the nearby conurbation. The main TV mast is left of photo. There were no problems with RFI on HF
During the activation several passers by stopped out of curiosity to ask me what I was doing, a brief explanation was given and they left me alone to continue with the activation. All in all the detour to Winter Hill was worthwhile and after joining the M61 again at 4.00pm I was back home before 6.30pm. 

Log above from my activation of Winter Hill and current UK Activator positions in the 10m-6m 2015 SOTA Challenge


Thursday, 4 June 2015

GM4OBK/P Scottish Borders Day - 4th June 2015

An early start was needed for a solo border raid up Teviotdale in the Scottish Borders. I had planned to activate three summits in a day, with a round trip drive of 305 miles taking me north of Langholm on the A7 historic route to Edinburgh... 
Room to park next to a gate access on the side of the A7 - my car on left is pointing in the Langholm direction
There was no parking up the access track to Eweslees Farm at NY 388973 and there was a warning sign on the bridge stating that parked vehicles there had caused accidents. So I turned my car round and parked 100m from the bridge, just off the road on the verge. 

Schedule of the day as it went:

Depart Pickering North Yorkshire 05:50 am

Arrive Eweslees Bridge in Teviotdale 9 miles north of Langholm 08:50 am - Walk start 09:10 am 

GM/SS-118 Wisp Hill Arrive 10:13 am Depart 11:21 am (10 previous activations)

GM/SS-136 Pikethaw Hill  Arrive 12:14 am Depart 13:34 pm (8 previous activations)

Arrive back car at Eweslees Bridge 14:15 pm

Drive to Mosspaul Hotel (2 miles) - Walk start 14:40 pm

GM/SS-146 Ellson Fell Arrive 16:00 pm Depart 17:28 pm (12 previous activations)

Arrive back car at Mosspaul Hotel 18:15 pm

Return home at 21:40 pm after fast food stop at Penrith KFC

Motored mileage: 305 miles Distance walked: 9.5 miles Total Ascent: 3315 feet

Screenshot of the two separate walks - GPX files were uploaded into the SOTA Mapping Project
Summit 1: GM/SS-118 Wisp Hill

Access to the open fell was via gates at NY 38910 97437 and NY 38990 97608. From there I decided to walk over the flank of Whin Fell - mistake. This was what Yorkshiremen call "Haggis Walking" I'm not sure why. I found it very hard on the ankles. For sure I would have been better going up the ridge on to Whin Fell as the drop to the saddle after it was minimal. That saddle was eventually reached by walking up the right hand side of the burn.

Walking up from the saddle north of Whin Fell to the summit of Wisp Hill SS-198 (595m ASL)
The was a fence corner running off the top of the summit of Wisp Fell which provided a convenient point to fix my 5m fishing pole. 

Equipment used for the activations of SS-118 and SS-136:

Yaesu FT-817ND 6 watts output from 14.4V 3.3 Ah Laptop LiPo battery
Palm Morse key with Ultra Pico Memory Keyer
Link dipoles for 30/20/17m and 15/10/6m bands on 5m pole

I had a very comfortable 32 minute activation on Wisp Hill GM/SS-118
Commercial Radio Mast on Comb Hill one mile away and 80m below me on Wisp Hill
I started operating on 30m and worked 4 stations before the band went quiet. 20m was more vibrant though, especially so on SSB. Best DX was with Joao CU3AA in the Azores and SV9RGI in Crete. After that I took down the longer dipole and substituted my shorter one to try to get some points on the 10m band for the 2015 SOTA Challenge. Just one contact with John G0TDM in Penrith was completed as there was no skip into Europe at the time. For the first time today I was trying out a memory keyer on a summit. This is the Ultra Pico unit, which my friend from Northern Ireland Victor GI4ONL, had purchased on my behalf when he bought one for himself. I found it very useful - enabling me to send out CQ calls and "TU" confirmations in Morse at the push of a button. 


Summit 2: GM/SS-146 Pikethaw Hill 

It was sun shining now and the traverse across to Pikethaw Hill was simply a case of following the fence down across Ewenshope Hill to the valley bottom at Ewes Doors and then climbing up the other side to reach the cairn on the summit (43 minutes).   
Pikethaw Hill SS-146 with the already climbed Wisp Hill to the right of the picture
There is a metal stanchion fence post hidden behind the cairn to which my antenna pole was fixed.
I was buzzed by this helicopter on the summit
As before, I started up on 30m CW (10 MHz) followed again by 20m and finally 10m for the SOTA Challenge. CU3AA Joao (Azores) was logged again but the best DX was Matt, KA1R in the state of Maine, USA. Several summit to summit contacts were also recorded...

The 10m band turned up one contact on skip. This was Rudi HB9MKV in Switzerland although regular SOTA man John G0TDM in Penrith was again worked on groundwave. As I made my way down to valley I was thoroughly enjoying my day. There was no problem strolling through the farmyard at Eweslees Farm, close to where I had parked up by the A7 which is the "Historic route to Edinburgh" according to the road signs along it.  After a late lunch and a short break back at the car I turned her round and drove two miles to the Mosspaul Hotel which was my start point for Ellson Fell GM/SS-146.

Summit 3: GM/SS-146 Ellson Fell 

Equipment used for the activation of SS-146:

Yaesu FT-857D with 60 watts output from 5 Ah LiFePo4 battery
Palm Morse key with Ultra Pico Memory Keyer
Link dipoles for 30/20/17m and 15/10/6m bands on 5m pole

The Mosspaul Hotel looked to me like it had ceased being a hotel, however there was a campsite to the rear, with flags of various nationalities being flown to attract the camper tourists passing by.  I parked on the curtilage of the site next to the A7. Permission was not sought to park there as there was no one around to ask and I wasn't blocking the entrance. 

Mosspaul Hotel - I am parked up by the large tree for SS-146
I chose a poor route up - and there was more tussocky "haggis walking" over the flank of Bye Hill, making the callous on the inside of my left foot even tougher than it was at the start of the day!
Thinking that intentionally going north and then turning back on myself would make the gradient easier, it didn't. This was the second bad decision of the day after deciding not to cross Whin Fell on my morning walk...  I would recommend that anyone following in my footsteps to go up the same way that I came down - which is along Penangus Hope - the curiously named glen which carries the Mosspaul Burn at the side of the mature conifer forest :

Looking down the Glen of Penangus Hope to the Mosspaul Inn from the flank of Carlin Tooth 

It took considerably longer (83 minutes) than it should have done to reach the featureless summit, due to the extended route taken, fatigue and the fact that I was carrying an FT-857 and larger battery. The grass topped featureless summit offered no support for my antenna, so I employed a 3 point guying ring and tent pegs:

The featureless top of Ellson Fell which appeared to be rarely visited - but this was its 13th activation for SOTA!
The same operating style was again employed on my third summit of the day. The bands chosen meant close in stations in the UK were not worked, apart from on the 10m band on groundwave. I had purposely left out 40m operation due to the time factor - on what was a 14 hours day anyway. Add 40m operation to what I was already doing and it would have turned my day into a 16 hour effort, so 40m, the most popular SOTA band was omitted from the mission. 


It was taking me between 10 and 15 minutes to switch over to the 10m band after my session on 20m due to having to remove one dipole and replace it with another, so I must make up another dipole to work on 10m-20m-30m for future activations. The first part of the 6/10m Challenge ends on August 14th, but then restarts on November 15th 2015. 

Following the burn down the valley was a much better route than the one I chose to go up on. It was less tussocky and shorter.  After leaving the Mosspaul Inn I reached Penrith via the A7 and M6 (Carlisle) route in less than one hour for some fast food. It was then I realised that the assistant in KFC was the first person I had spoken to all day, apart from the 70 brief exchanges I had with radio amateurs over the radio, not having seen or passed or spoken to a single soul throughout the day...this would not have happened in the Lake District!

Stats

70 X contacts on 3 summits
4 X Summit to Summit contacts with HB9ZAP/P OE7HPI/7 ON9CBQ/P DL3SBA/P (All SSB QRP)
6 X 10m Challenge Contacts from 3 summits
3 X SOTA Complete points

SOTA UK Complete Table - Top 10


I'm now lying 3rd in the UK SOTA Complete table. Including the 3 summits bagged today I've completed 119 summits in the last year, two were confirmed as complete as a result of chaser contacts and 117 were confirmed by activating a unique summit from my side from a summit which I had previously chased.

I'm hoping to do a few more trips to the Scottish Borders during the summer. There are still a handful of border summits reachable within a day from my QTH in North Yorkshire which I haven't yet visited.  I find it easier to reach Scotland than Wales as the roads north are generally less congested than if I travel across the Pennines and Manchester.