Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Cross Fell G/NP-001 G4OBK & G0VWP

The summit of Cross Fell is the highest point in the North Pennines at 2930 ft.  The plateau on which the summit lies also carries Little Dun Fell and Great Dunn Fell where a NATS air traffic radar installation is located. The large white radome can be seen on a good day from the A66 in the Eden Valley.  The average annual rainfall on the summit is around 110 inches and the summit can be an inhospitable place, especially when the cross shelter on the summit is covered in a snow drift, as it was on our visit of 18 December 2012.

The snow and ice meant we could not proceed further by car than this point - Terry G0VWP is pictured
On my previous visit in December 2008 the weather was cooler, with mist and a hoar frost. Today there was more lying snow, patchy thick mist and wind of around 20 mph on the summit. In addition it was not possible to reach the usual parking place at the radar station gate (NY 716316 2480 ft ASL) due to ice and lying snow on the access road, so Terry parked the car in a passing place at NY 712306 at 2000 ft ASL. 

The road up Dun Fell to the usual parking place was impassable due to snow and ice
I've known Terry personally for just over a year, although we have made contacts on ham radio regularly since 2009. He lives in York, around 30 miles from my home in Pickering. 

Terry picked me up at 06.00 am and we were parked up on the road and walking by 0835 am. As we got nearer the gate the road conditions became worse and it was plain to see that the only vehicle which had climbed as far as the gate had caterpillar tracks. We continued on the road to the second gate which is the perimeter of the Great Dun Fell Radar site and then turned off right to follow the fence which (eventually) led us to the Pennine Way. 

Phil G4OBK on Great Dunn Fell
As we continued the partly frozen snow and mist made progress difficult and we ended up crossing a shake hole some distance off the Pennine Way before we eventually found it. The route taken meant we crossed on the south west flank of Little Dunn Fell. 

A GPS plot of the middle section of our route out and back
If you look closely at the map you will see that when we passed the Shake Hole that we had to back track. This was when Terry had noticed he had lost his glasses - a 20 minute search returning back to where we had stopped to check and correct our position was unsuccessful - the glasses were not found....

Terry G0VWP en-route to Cross Fell
We continued on to the depression of Crowdundle Head which is the source of the River Tees.

At Crowdundle Head - the depression on the plateau between Little Dun Fell and Cross Fell
From here the trig point and shelter were a long time in coming. With the thick mist you could not see the join between sky and snow at times, however we eventually made it.

Approaching the summit of Cross Fell
Terry G0VWP in his operating position on HF - no need to guy the pole as it was supported in a snow hole

After we had kicked some of the snow out of the way Terry set up his station for VHF on the 2m band in one corner of the shelter. After I had a sandwich and flask of tea I set up my HF Short Wave station on the opposite side. We both used separate Yaesu FT-857 transceivers. 

Terry operated entirely on voice using FM and SSB on the 2 Metre Band and then on the 20m Band using my station. I operated in Morse (CW) on 30m, 20m and then on 2m VHF on FM and CW using Terry's station.  We used a link dipole on HF on a 7m pole and a SOTA Beams MFD on VHF mounted around 2m above ground. Using SSB on 2m with the MFD Terry G0VWP worked as far south as Devon when he worked Don G0RQL. The only station I worked on 2m CW was John G0TDM in Penrith. Our final total in 90 minutes operating was 113 contacts with 25 countries, the furthest on HF being with USA, Canada and Asian Russia. 

Terry operating HF SSB on the left - the VHF station is on the opposite corner of the cross shelter
Here is a short film of me on youtube on the summit shot by Terry.

We left the summit at 1.20 pm. Needless to say my hands were frozen as it is not possible to operate a Morse key for over an hour with gloves on.  However I recently purchased some German Army Surplus fur lined mittens which I was carrying. Without any liner gloves my hands were warm as toast within five minutes! A good purchase....

My "new" German army surplus fur lined mittens
We saw no other person and no wildlife, apart from one earwig crawling over the surface of the snow! 

The only living creature seen on our walk
As we made our way back over Little Dun Fell on the better return route, we  found part of the flagged section of the Pennine Way uncovered by the snow. The mist was clearing from time to time and this allowed us views over the Eden Valley and down to Dufton Pike (G/NP-027) below us. 

Dufton Pike and the Eden Valley on our return (1.40 pm on 18 December 2012)

Once we reached the radar station and the road we could see that there was a light thaw on and the gate to the station had been unlocked. Again there were only catterpillar tracks, so the maintenance crew must use a specialist vehicle which is kept in a nearby village to access the station during the winter months. 

The final picture above was taken as we headed down to the car. We completed what was an arduous walk of 8.5 miles with 2000 feet of ascent at 3.15 pm. As Terry's eyesight was affected by not having his glasses I drove his car back to Pickering. 
I will be revisiting the summit on May 1st 2013 with Geoff M6PYG when we will again operate for Summits On The Air, whilst taking part in Wainwright's Pennine Journey, a long distance walk of 247 miles. 

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