The XYL was in London a few weeks back so I decided to activate another SOTA. I had planned to get up at the same time as her alarm (5am for the 7am train) and almost did but didn't really get moving that quickly. In the end I left the house just after 7am heading for Ribble Head viaduct & Whernside G/NP-004.
The drive up was great with hardly any traffic impeding my journey, the sun was breaking through and blue sky coming through. As I got to Horton in Ribblesdale I could see plenty of snow lingering on Pen-y-Ghent and expected the same for Whernside a few miles up the road.
On arrival I parked up with only a handful of cars before me, the time was around 8.20am, a good run considering I was keeping to the speed limits!
I put my boots, wind stopper jacket & hat on, switched on the HT, tuned to 145.500, grabbed my (quite heavy) pack and set off. Ten minutes later I took the hat off, it was really quite mild. Whernside is a steady walk to the summit, you pass the stunning viaduct and walk beside the Settle to Carlisle railway line almost parallel with the top of the mountain heading away from the summit to the shallow 'back' of the mountain.
It's only the 3rd time I've been up Whernside, last time I was here was about 25 years ago when I did all three of the peaks (I've ascended PyG and Ingleborough many times since), oddly it was also in March and with snow, although a lot more than today. The sun had gone, replaced by a grey mist but it was still reasonably warm.
Around half way to the summit I reached the snow line starting with the odd bit on the (very substantial) Yorkshire Stone flagged path being covered in icy snow. Not really checking the time I arrived on top around 10:30 and looked for a suitable place to set up. Typically the ideal post to strap my mast to was in a snow drift but I waded through the snow and got on with it using the dry stone wall as a desk for the radio equipment. The WX was helped by the lack of wind so although I was sitting in the snow it didn't feel too cold (although I did add an extra layer of waterproof trousers and jacket).
Switching on the 817 I auto tuned (matched) on 20m and then tuned to 14.285 (commonly used for SOTA). I hadn't put an alert on the SOTA website and couldn't 'self spot' as I had no 3G on the phone. There were loads of stations calling on 14.285 so didn't put a call out but listened for a while, I could hear a very weak SOTA activator working the loud stations. Digging in my rucksack I got my headphones out and put them on to see if I could make out the other mountain goat (CS7AFI) in Portugal which worked a treat.
Being fairly new to SOTA I had yet to work a summit to summit (S2S) so this was all pretty exciting. I waited for him to call QRZ and made my call in the pile-up, ensuring I clearly announced I was a S2S. Thankfully one of the louder Europen stations heard my call and asked everyone to stand by while we made the S2S QSO (thank you whoever you are - I didn't get your call).
With the exchange made I'd worked my first of 3 S2S on Whernside. The amount of QRM was pretty outstanding with people tuning up on 14.285 (not pleasant when listening for weak signals with headphones on) and some other odd noises on frequency. As the frequency belonged to the Portugal station I tuned up and down 10 and made my call. Other stations worked on S2S were G0WPO & IW2OBX, furthest distance W1OW in Massachusetts - all with 5w and my homebrew antenna.
Stayed up there for over an hour and walking back to the car taking the longer route (retracing my steps) I met swarms of people attempting the three peaks - good luck to all!
More SOTA activation reports coming soon!
73, Morgan 2E0TTK