Tag Archives: Skiddaw

(Feb) Radio Days

Late again, I need to get my act together.

The shortest month of the year, so how much did I manage to cram in to it ?

Lets see !

SOTA…

Activations ? Two, what I would call my now annual visits to first, Beinn a’Mhanaich and secondly the Hill of Stake.

a’Mhanaich I did on a cold windy day but I was kept busy with 24 contacts from Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland. Later in midweek I headed to the Hill of Stake in ideal conditions for walking in and out but I must add not for sitting about on the summit, this hill is best done in ‘cold’ conditions as some of you know fine well it can a boggy pathless ascent. ‘Crisp’ is what I would describe as the best attack plan. I made 19 contacts all in Scotland but nonetheless a good midweek total. I gave a call out on my 70mhz FM handie and snagged one contact to Steve UAU in Greenock but at the HoS, I decided to try 70 cm FM and made three contacts which for midweek was good. I’ll try 70 cm as 70 mhz seems to be quiet in the Central Belt but if S of the HoS, I will consider 70 mhz FM as I know a few stations in NI and some in the NW England area are normally about.

Looking down the Firth from a'Mhanaich

Looking down the Firth from a’Mhanaich

Chasing…

The month started with working Iain WJZ who activated Beinn Dorain, another of those iconic Scottish mountains. I had been out walking and waited to catch him from the local golf course car park about 400m W from my house. One done by handie.

On what seemed a slow start to the month, I caught Iain seven days later Schiehallion SE of Loch Rannoch this time I was at home. Iain had just activated two hills I have looked at very closely lately. The following weekend I ‘chased’ from Beinn a’Mhanaich and logged Iain this time from Creag Meagaidh well to the N of me near Glen Spean , Robin PKT who was Beinn Chaorach nr Tyndrum, Jack COX to the E on Cairnpapple Hill, John BLV who was on Moel Famau in North Wales and finally Alister BKQ whom I caught on Skiddaw in the Lake District, a good haul of contacts. I was down on HF when I get tipped the wink by Steve UAU that Colwyn YCJ was on Ben Clach to the NW of Braco, an unexpected one in the log.

On the last weekend of the month, I caught Robin PKT on Sgurr Mhic Eacharna then the following day on Beinn Leamhain both hills in the Morvern area and the last contact for the month was Bob AWV directly across the river on Ben Bowie. A reasonable month considering the poor weather at times.

Quiet but still a worthwhile time considering hill conditions.

Brr

Brr

HF…

Another month in which JT65 and to a lesser degree JT9-1 were my go to modes. I must return to PSK at some point as some interesting propagation has been showing lately. Nothing new DXCC wise although I’m trying hard trying to work grey line or monitoring bands as they open or start to close which seems to be my best chance. Right place right time I hope will pay off for me.

Odds..

I’m still playing about with the SDR dongle stuff but still not devoting the time that I should, I must try to source a box to fit the upconverter in as more a shield than anything else. It is remarkable how sensitive the dongles are for the price that you pay for them and with some excellent free software to run them with. I think the winter months will be spent trying some of the Softrock projects.

That’s been short and sweet for Feb, a month in which I crammed in so much but found I’d very little to write in this piece. If it seems a dry post, I may put that down to short memory hihi.

My post on Beinn a’Mhanaich HERE

Ditto …Hill of Stake HERE

73

Thanks again to all those I have linked to, Wikipedia, Peakbagger and others…

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Latrigg

Blencathra activated the previous day, the sun was shining the sky was blue and the day just couldn’t be wasted by driving or lazing around. Where ?

Latrigg ….

A word with Katie and a quick explanation of how she would enjoy the views over Keswick and beyond. I thought going to the high level Skiddaw car park and then what looked like a easy path to reach Latrigg’s highest spot.

Skiddaw from Latrigg

Skiddaw from Latrigg

We set off from our base in Cockermouth and picked up some eatables on the way. The road to the high level parking area is a well-kept single track but starts to deteriorate as you near the parking area and no words can describe some of the parking you see and as it is where the tourist route starts for Skiddaw and at midday it is jam-packed so we made our way back down the hill and parked in as close to the roadside as we could.

Katie on Latrigg

Katie on Latrigg

A steep uphill start but with knowing Latrigg isn’t the haul of many WOTA/SOTA hills we walked slowly gaining height before heading on to a well made path which skirts the side of Latrigg and soon we were taking in the excellent views of Keswick below us. I had intended of activating this as it is a WOTA (Wainwrights On The Air) summit but due to an intermittent internet connection, I never managed to post an alert.

The walk of just over a mile took no time at all and with a rise of only 337 ft it was more a leisurely stroll after the previous days Blencathra effort. We sat just off the summit area and the next days target hills looked so close.  Some cloud was covering the higher hills to the south and behind us Skiddaw was clear and we could see the conga line of people snaking its way up what is a well made path on its steep start to its ascent.

We had a picnic lunch, this is the way it should be done I must try to encourage this more often instead the usual gulping water and eating another alleged healthy eating biscuit but if I mention anything higher, funny looks fly my way but today I was enjoying this one.

I sat down and using only my 2w 2m FM handie I called and called with no response so it was time to try 4m FM, same as before nothing. I had just switched on my 2m handie and I heard my call sign so I dropped down frequency with Mike BLH who was in the High Rigg area just outside the town.

Keswick and Derwent Water

Keswick and Derwent Water

Mike is the webmaster of the excellent Summitsbase website that you see the image link on the right hand side of this page. You need to register to get the full benefits of this site.

After chatting with Mike it was time to go back and call again but on both bands I could raise no other stations but as WOTA requires only one contact I had activated the hill but I would have preferred more but on a sunny day I think radio would be last choice for many..

It was time to have  a last look at the views as Latrigg is in an excellent situation but I remember my first visit to its top, it would be mid 80s and I was taken up the fell using the direct route  straight up the hillside with a rise of 880 ft in only a 800m climb, I was grateful as this area now was planted out with trees plus this time I guess I cheated.

It was a pleasant easy stroll back to the car and off we drove to get catch some cooler air.

Oh and I never made it out on the next day…..

PS.. I mentioned ‘alleged’ healthy eating bars in the post and not long after I put this ‘live’, I came across this HERE

Blencathra

The now annual short trip to the Lake District was nearing and my thoughts turned to ‘Where this time?’.

Pouring over maps and routes which seems to be an enjoyable part of all this activating lark, I settled on Blencathra.

This hill had been activated many times but as one of the most popular hills in the Lake District I expected to see this plus I noted that earlier this year in March regular blog reader Iain WJZ had been one of those.

SOTA Activation of Blencathra G/LD 008 on 8/08/2012

SOTA Activation of Blencathra G/LD 008 on 8/08/2012

I had passed many times beneath the south face of Blencathra or Saddleback as local friends use when talking about this impressive sight as you head along the A66 towards Keswick. It was my hill of choice on this short three-day visit.

I had prepared maps for this and other alternative summits but as we left home to head the just over two-hour journey south, the sky had nary a cloud to be seen. After days and days of almost daily rain this sight was most welcome and as we headed south along the M74, the sky was now showing more cloud the nearer we came to the border.
We stopped outside Carlisle for our brekkie and soon fully fed and watered. ASDA do one heck of a breakfast.
I had seen the Northern Fells as we headed towards Carlisle and soon we left the motorway  heading west on the A66 to Threlkeld where after a short drive through the village I would get dropped off at OS ref NY 302256.

Katie said goodbye and straight from the off it was straight up steep, I had chosen to take the route up Blease Fell from the ‘car parking’ area behind the Blencathra Centre.

Derwent Water from the ascent

Derwent Water from the ascent

Slowly and relentlessly I headed upwards pausing to take in the cracking views looking back towards Keswick, Derwent Water and the nearby fells. I met a few walkers who had made it a round trip accessing the hill from the more common ascent of Scales Fell. Keeping heading up what was a dry well-worn path I stopped after an hour to have my customary scran break, I was watching a walker doing the direct route and soon he passed as I had a final swig of water and headed towards where the path zig-zags before finally starting to ease towards Knowe Crags and soon I saw my intended target Hallsfell Top the summit of Blencathra. Looking back towards Skiddaw, I could see nestled in the hillside Skiddaw House which is the highest hostel in Britain, more information HERE. Isolation at its finest.

Once I reached Knowe Crags, the ascent was more gentle rising towards another high point above Gategill Fell before the last easy ascent along the ridge towards Hallsfell Top, the views in 360 degrees were stunning, I looked NW to the Cairnsmore of Fleet, the Merrick among other  Galloway Hills and to the SE, S , SW and W the fells of the Lakes with the odd cloud covering the higher tops and just to the west Skiddaw‘s summit was clearing.

I took in the views whilst dropping just slightly below the summit to set up the mast and beam. I had been in touch with fellow blogger Neil 2MØNCM on my way south and had asked Neil to post an alert on the SOTA site for me, time of arrival had been almost left open but I was more than glad of my ascent time being a bit under 2 hours and only one person passing me on the ascent, we had a quick chat and he said that the guide books point you in either Scales Fell or for the more adventurous Sharp Edge and how they recommend you stop occasionally to look back and take in the fantastic views but this way you get the ‘alleged’ better views on the descent.

The ridge walk to Hallsfell Top

The ridge walk to Hallsfell Top

I set up the 2m beam to quips of ‘ What time are the Olympics on?’ and ‘ You don’t need a satellite up here’, yep the hill was full of wags today, the comments kept coming all the time I was there.

I had first looked for Neil as he and Cat CNC had headed out to ‘chase’ me from Pinbain Hill in South Ayrshire but no joy initially but you will find out later why.

Off it was to 145.500 and first to reply to my call was Geoff WHA in Penrith with whom I had spoken on my Lakeland visit last year. Next in the log was John TDM also from nearby Penrith. To the west Malcolm XAT from Seaton called me and next was Colin XSD in the same area. I spoke with Ed PYE who was passing beneath me on the A66, Ed was also in the area for a short break.

Coiln UXH called in from west of me and he had told me that Terry VSP was on Claife Heights a WOTA/ SOTA summit to the south of me near Windermere, the first of two summit to summit calls. Further SW was Brian ZRP who called me from the Wirral area approx 140 kms away.

I had swung the beam around in a 360 direction stopping occasionally to call out as I knew Irish or Scottish contacts could be made  from here but the band had gone quiet or so I thought.

I heard my phone ringing and it was Neil asking me to beam NW as I was loud and clear to them so off I beamed that way again, nothing….Something isn’t working here. I had just worked a station in the Wirral area with no problem and had never thought I had any problems but I removed and replaced the handie with my 2 watt Baofeng, I called and voilà !! Neil and Cat with no problem at all. Following Neil and Cat was another summit to summit to North Wales to Phil CJJ/p who was on Mynydd Bodafon on the Isle of Anglesey, this being made with Phil using the bog standard duck antenna that came with his handheld radio, excellent contact. Lastly another contact to the Isle of Anglesey with John GUX. Both of these contacts were roughly 170 km away under normal conditions. A good sea path obviously helps.

The other handie had been deaf on receive and I am wondering if it had been that way all along on the earlier part of the activation. A call to Neil later that evening had confirmed my suspicions that it had been deaf from the very outset, I will have a look at it but if nothing obvious I may just replace it. I wonder if I had missed any other contacts.

Sharp Edge

Sharp Edge

After the last contact, I started to strip down the beam and mast and noticed that I was the only person on the ridge and summit area it was an eerie silence after the constant stream of folk summitting. I sat at the summit taking a last 360 look whilst taking on more water and food for the descent. A lone fell runner came towards the summit from Anderson Pike and I decided to head that way to have a look at the ‘white cross’ which has been laid out on the grass, the origins of the ‘cross’ is split between two camps, a memorial to either a fell walker who died nearby or a late gamekeeper from nearby Skiddaw House, Wainwright himself had gone with the fact that a local Threlkeld resident had ‘built’ the cross to its present day size. I was not too far from where Sharp Edge meets the plateau but I headed back down the main path off the  summit whilst marvelling at how impressive Sharp Edge looks from the main path, I could see a couple of brightly coloured figures slowly ascending.

Looking to Scales Fell and beyond

Looking to Scales Fell and beyond

Down a well-worn path and passing a large family group who had decided to turn back just short of reaching the summit plateau, 10 mins would have had them at the top. Strange decision.  I slowly descended taking in the views and yet another fell runner ran breathlessly upwards past me and before long off she passed descending quickly into the distance. There is a maze of paths at this side of the hill so I followed the main one down and decided to head and take the path which steeply descends Mousethwaite Comb and comes out to a track which leads back to the village of Scales where I had arranged my pick up point, I crossed the busy A66 and threw my equipment into the car and off we headed back to Cockermouth.

An excellent day spent on a more than worthy hill, I will look at this hill each time I pass ans who knows I may do the reverse route some day. It was good to find good dry paths with no boggy patches to find your way around.

My thanks to Katie, Wikipedia and Peakbagger and those I have linked to.

I did a quick activation of Latrigg Fell the following day (  short blog post to follow in a few days)

Information overload….

Blencathra means ‘ the bare hill shaped like a chair’ from the old Cumbric….

or Saddleback is self-explanatory.

Height is 868m (2,848 ft) asl..

Computer generated panorama HERE

Peakbagger info HERE

For further reading on Fell Running, just google Billy Bland or Joss Naylor and just to put all this into perspective, Billy Bland holds the record for the Bob Graham Round, a race which takes in 42 Lake District peaks over 66 miles long, his record ? 13 hours 53 mins. Joss Naylor expanded the round to 72 peaks involving over 100 miles and 37,000 feet of ascent in 23h 20m. Incredible achievements.

That Was The Year That Was….Pt 2

Have you wakened up since Pt 1 ? don’t worry the end is nigh.

July – Dec……

SOTA activations continued..

Skiddaw near the end of July was my first activation in England, the Lake District to be precise. I was away for a few days as part of a celebratory 30th anniversary break and being based in the north-west lake area, a compromise was made as I don’t shop so I got allowed to play ‘radio’. Skiddaw was memorable more for the crazy parking area and being passed by mountain bikers just before the last climb to the summit plateau. I activated on both 4 and 2m FM with no problems and made three STS (summit to summit) contacts, two locally on Pillar, Arnside Knott ( the lowest ‘Marilynin England) and one to Jimmy EYP on Sighty Crag in the Border region.

Derwent Water from the ascent of Skiddaw

Derwent Water from the ascent of Skiddaw

Two days later, I returned to old pastures with a quick nip up to Dale Head from the top of Honister Pass, I first visited this summit in the early ’80 and was blown away with the view north to Skiddaw and yep, the view is worth the visit. I had intended to try to fit in the nearby Robinson but alas we had to head home early so one for the next visit. There is a convenient fencepost at the summit so off I called and worked the same friendly group of chasers I had worked two days earlier on Skiddaw. Only STS was again Jimmy EYP who was on Peel Fell. A quick activation then to Honister Hause and sadly off back home.

My English adventure was over and the next activation was two months later but what a doozy, Ben More on the Isle of Mull, I had worked Gerald AQU there earlier in the year and as I always do, I had a look at the hill etc and made a mental note that this would be a cracker and when Roddy IOB mentioned a trip, I was front of the queue.

The weather gave us a window of blue skies and sunshine and we took full advantage, 4m contacts to outside Glasgow, South Uist and Skye was surprising plus two STS to Iain WJZ on Beinn Chaorach and Robin PKT on Beinn Lora. As we descended and reached our start point, it started to drizzle. An excellent 3 days on Mull thrown in as well.

Looking towards Loch Scridain from Ben More

Looking towards Loch Scridain from Ben More

Finally but not least was my annual trip to Beinn Chaorach in the Luss Hills, another excellent weather day and only one STS but made not with the 5 ele 2m yagi but my wee Baofeng handie and its two watts(Nagoya 701 antenna), I was trying 4m FM with no joy and whilst I called, I had my handie monitoring s20 and heard Robin PKT on Meall Chuaich so I followed him and made contact at approx 105km with the twin peaks of Ben More and Stobinnean in the way. Another good day.

That was the last for 2011, 13 activations and plenty fun and tired legs along the way. Thanks go to Roddy 2MØIOB for his company and his suffering my snail pace and tales of yore.

Thanks also to anyone with whom I have spoken to over the past year from a summit.

2012 ? who knows…

Chasing highlights…

Leaving out the STS, all contacts are highlights as well as points!!!! It is possible I could work 95% of contacts from sitting here in the shack but a good day, sunshine, fresh air and the chance of a contact outside isn’t to be sniffed at. I have a selection of high points I use.

I achieved ‘Shack Sloth’ during the activation of Cruach Ardrain with an STS,  I only claim points after the activator posts his log online so looking at my chaser log it looks different date wise but Colwyn YCJ was on one of Beinn Eighe‘s tops and that when uploaded gave me over 1,000 pts. Over the year, I amassed at least 800 plus points doubling both 2009 and 2010’s total.

Beinn Chaorach from the Green Road

Beinn Chaorach from the Green Road

In conclusion…

My thanks go out to all those who were out in all conditions to activate and for the points I accrued from you.  I have promised to try get my golf handicap down in 2012. I said that this time last year and never.

HF…

Another year but I have not been as active as possibly the previous year but I still manage on most days for a call. In addition to PSK (I only use datamodes), WSPR and RTTY. I have also made contacts on ROS, JT65 and Contestia.

I experimented with ROS and V4 before deciding to give more time to WSPR whilst getting set up for JT65 which has taken most of my HF work lately.

A few new DXCC counties added to the list and in November, I finally worked into South America on 10m JT65. WAC achieved.

The outlook for 2012..

I’ll work away on HF mostly from 20m to 10m and have a more than close look at the other data modes I’ve not used. I had thought of looking more at WAB (Worked All Britain)this year but got bogged down elsewhere, next year ?

SOTA wise…

Hopefully to get my 150 activator points then cut back on both that and chasing.

The end of my inane ramblings for another year….I said that last year didn’t I ?

Hope the year 2012 is a good one for you in all radio and other contexts.