Another opportunity this weekend to tick off one of my ‘to-do’ summits and also take in another four Wainwrights!
2m FM QSOs
All power connections standardized using PowerPole connectors.
Logging: Rite in the Rain 4x6 Notebook and STAEDTLER Noris HB Pencil
Rucksack: Lowe Alpine Airzone Trek 45:55
Phone/Camera: Xiaomi Redmi Note 8T
Water 1.5 litre, with supplemental water via stream and Chlorine tablet
Snacks: Trek High Protein Flapjack Cocoa Coconut bar x 2, Trail Mix 200g
Clothing: Technical T-Shirt, Marmot moisture wicking base layer (not worn), Regatta trousers, shorts, gloves, extra layers.
Footwear: Salomon X Ultra 3 Prime GTX
- LifeSystems Light and Dry Survival Bivi Bag
- Emergency Plastic Whistle
- Silva Expedition S Compass
- LifePo4 2400mAH battery powers the FT-817 and phone charger
- 12v to USB adapter plus phone charging lead
- Victorinox Swiss Champ Swiss Army Pocket Knife
- Memory Map Android App
- Petzl Aktic headtorch using Panasonic Eneloop Pro AAA batteries with spare set.
- Supertrip Sports Glasses UV400 Protective
- Water purification tablets (only suitable for use on running water)
With the weather report for Saturday indicating good conditions, with a maxium summit wind of 20mph gusting 30mph, little chance of rain and warm (oh yes) temperatures I decided that today was as good as any to tackle Pillar, having looked at it so longingly during my High Stile expedition.
I deliberately decided to take the extra effort required to travel by motorbike, as I new I wasn’t going to be early and anticipated the chances of getting a parking place were limited. I wanted to start on South-West approach of Yewbarrow, the most obvious parking spot being the Over Beck Car Park.
My prediction was spot on, the car park was full. Initially I pulled the bike in at the side of the road but my spidy-senses were tingling when the family in the car behind me rearranged into one car and then moved off again, so I decided to pull the bike into the car park onto a spare piece of grass. Now I don’t know whether they would ticket a bike, but what I found out on the walk back is that the entire road to Wasdale Head is a clearway, and all of the remaining cars had fixed penalty notices attached.
Parking sport in Over Beck Car Park
You might be wondering what I do with the motorbiking gear. Sometimes in the winter I’ll risk riding in walking clothing if it isn’t a long run out, but with this being a full hour-and-a-half from Windermere I dug out some old but serviceable gear then left it with the bike. The helmet is locked ot the bike and I put the gloves in the locked tail unit, so I knew if someone tea-leafed the other gear I’d still have minimal protection on the way home.
Just have to say this is my first visit to the Wasdale valley (I’ve seen it from several summits of course) and that initial vista you get from the road is simply breathtaking, especially on a day like today. That is saying something living in the Lakes. It’s no wonder it is popular.
|WOTA ID: LDW-124||Height: 628 m (2060 ft)|
|SOTA ID: n/a||Grid ref: NY173084|
|HuMP ID: G/HLD-053||QTH Locator: IO84IL|
|Book: The Western Fells||Lat: 54.464095 Long: -3.276032|
I decided I’d like to walk the ridgeline of Yewbarrow so this was always going to be a tough start.
I did of course, in time honoured tradition, make a navigation error early on, following the path by the river, however it was easily corrected. Off-line maps are essential here as the entire valley appears to be mobile signal free.
On the climb up Yewbarrow before Dropping Crag
The climb is steep but good under foot, although some rock traversing is required at Dropping Crag.
Views to the West
On the summit
I decided today to take a risk by not having rig or battery redundancy. I pulled the FT-817 internal battery in favour of the higher capacity and lighter external 2200 maH LifePo4, to save weight on such a long trek. This time I got lucky, no more no less.
The operating position for VHF was to put the SlimG on the 6m pole at around 4m (top couple of sections missing) and hold that in the crook of my arm. I attached the Yaesu neck strap to the PowerPort case and this allowed me to operate without needing three hands or finding a support for the antenna mast. As the wind was light here I operated sitting on a rock.
A nice set of initial contacts, of course these can be logged against for the HEMA programme too being G/HLD-053.
|10:59||GW4ZPL||2m||145.400||FM||IO73wd||Wales||Colin John Barwell|
I descended Yewbarrow to Dore Head via Stirrup Crag. Much like Dropping Crag on the way up this requires some rock traversal. Nothing too tricky but probably not much fun in the wet and poor visibility. As Derek 2E0MIX pointed out there is an alternative path that is a much gentler descent. I noted the path as I passed it before reaching the final set of Cairn stones.
View towards Red Pike via Dore Head
Looking back to Stirrup Crag from Dore Head
Looking back to Stirrup Crag on the ascent
The ascent was thankless in the heat. I was being followed by a lady a little way back which kind of kept me going. She was kind enough to take my photo at the top, and made a hasty descent back to her friend who wasn’t up for Red Pike.
With light cloud gathering there seemed to be no cover for me all the way up to Steeple. The air temperature appeared to rise as the day went on and you can tell that my factor 30 didn’t survive the sweat today!
|WOTA ID: LDW-026||Height: 826 m (2710 ft)|
|SOTA ID: n/a||Grid ref: NY165106|
|HuMP ID: n/a||QTH Locator: IO84IL|
|Book: The Western Fells||Lat: 54.483733 Long: -3.288994|
View to Kirk Fell from Red Pike
Scoat Fell (left) and Pillar (right) in the background
Following by the edge as you now finally reach Red Pike (and beyond) rewards with magnificent views and you suddenly forget the tired legs.
This was a standing activation as I found there was significant insect activity on this summit, and standing definitely helped!
|12:35||2W0FNA||2m||145.350||FM||JJ00aa||Wales||Karl Mark Byast|
|12:40||GW3GUX/P||2m||145.350||FM||Wales||OP: John, QTH: Anglesea|
|WOTA ID: LDW-023||Height: 841 m (2759 ft)|
|SOTA ID: n/a||Grid ref: NY159113|
|HuMP ID: n/a||QTH Locator: IO84IL|
|Book: The Western Fells||Lat: 54.489923 Long: -3.298453|
Another 20 minutes walk and you arrive at Scoat Fell. A wall divides the East/West side of the ridgeline here and only after crossing the wall does the magnificent vista towards Steeple reveal itself. The summit itself is a giant boulder field for the most part.
Another standing VHF activation here too.
|13:15||M0MHW/P||2m||145.350||FM||England||OP: Gary, QTH: Knott End, Pilling|
View towards High Stile
|WOTA ID: LDW-028||Height: 819 m (2687 ft)|
|SOTA ID: n/a||Grid ref: NY157116|
|HuMP ID: n/a||QTH Locator: IO84IL|
|Book: The Western Fells||Lat: 54.492586 Long: -3.301625|
Oh my goodness me. I think my comment to a walker who I passed on the way to Steeple summed up my mood here: “If I die now, I’ll die happy”. Wow, what a breathtaking summit.
Steeple from Scoat Fell
As I was traversing the narrow path to the summit my thoughts were definitely in the Tolkein universe. Surely this summit must have influenced the novels?
The walkway to Steeple
Summit Cairn Stones
Very, very happy to be here!
The standing VHF gear
It was great to get so many in the log from Steeple. I’d love to do an HF activation from here, but practically that would need to be 20m vertical given the size of the summit. Great to get five countries in the log from here too!
|13:35||G0UKZ/A||2m||145.550||FM||England||OP: Chris, QTH: Seascale, RIG: ICOM 706, ANT: Colinear, PWR: 20w|
|13:37||GW4ZPL||2m||145.550||FM||IO73wd||Wales||Colin John Barwell|
|13:42||EI8HIB/P||2m||145.550||FM||IO63dl||Ireland||Frank G. McKeown|
Whilst activating I heard a drone flying over head. Whilst packing up the owner arrived at the summit, a VLOGger. His YouTube channel is Blackcrag. I noted that photos of folk on the summit looked really good from Scoat Fell, so I was especially made up when he said the drone footage would make it into his VLOG. Can’t wait to see that.
Black Crag VLOGGer using his GoPro selfie-stick on Steeple
And so to Pillar! The cloud was kissing the traverse making this a wonderful part of the walk.
View to Crummock Water from Wind Gap
On the final ascent you could see the tops of the Scarfell range peaking above the lower cloudbase.
Scarfell summits above the cloud
|WOTA ID: LDW-008||Height: 892 m (2926 ft)|
|SOTA ID: G/LD-006||Grid ref: NY171121|
|HuMP ID: n/a||QTH Locator: IO84IL|
|Book: The Western Fells||Lat: 54.49731 Long: -3.280155|
Highest point of the walk
Having viewed photos of the summit pre-activation I knew there would be plenty of space for the 80m 1/2 wave dipole. I took a bit of time to walk around the summit to see the views from all directions. The majestic Pillar Rock is a magnificent sight with the Ennerdale valley as a backdrop, the photos really don’t give a good sense of scale!
Clouds on the summit
Like Red Crag there was a really healthy insect population on top of Pillar, there being very little wind. A standing VHF activation was called for, I kept to the high part of the summit for this, but then found that venturing towards the slope off of the summit reduced the insect infestation remarkably. Thankfully they weren’t biters as I didn’t have Alex with me for distraction!
Predictably the SOTA status of this summit brought in more chasers including the regulars - good to get Geoff GM4WHA in the log from here as this was the first summit where I found a free frequency above 145.500 (he has QRM below at home), although I guess this time being /M it wouldn’t have mattered. Mike 2E0IKM doing a great job of chasing as well as activating!
|14:43||GW4ZPL||2m||145.575||FM||IO73wd||Wales||Colin John Barwell|
|14:52||GI0THZ/M||2m||145.575||FM||Northern Ireland||OP: Harry|
|14:52||GM4WHA/M||2m||145.575||FM||Scotland||QTH: Headland Garden Ctr|
I noted that the mobile phone signal was much better on the Northerly side of the summit, so this is where I setup the HF antenna. It was really nice to be able to operate standing on HF, now with the mast supported via the HF antenna setup I was able to wander around and enjoy the views in between QSOs.
Standing HF operation
Great list of contacts on 80m and the 5w was surprising both myself and those at the other end of the QSO. Douggie was doing really well with his AMPRO antenna and Phil sounded simply amazing with his great QTH setup. Lovely to have a chat with David G8KAP near Carlise, 88 years young. Hope I still have a mike in my hand (and still understand what it does) if I get there!
|15:32||2I0FIP||80m||3.720||SSB||JJ00aa||Northern Ireland||John Miskimmin|
40m Activation #1
Good to get my regular SOTA chasers of Karl and Manuel in the log on 40m. Mike G0RDF was doing a great job from his /M setup.
|15:39||2I0FIP||40m||7.180||SSB||JJ00aa||Northern Ireland||John Miskimmin|
|15:42||EA2CKX||40m||7.180||SSB||IN83ta||Spain||PEDRO CHINCHURRETA JAUREGUIALZO|
I wasn’t expecting great things from 20m as it has been poor as of late but oh my - Iceland S2S as the first contact! It didn’t quite hit me how unusual this is - I think I have one other in the log. Tony was booming in Groundwave but generally the contacts on 20m quite light today.
|15:50||TF/HB9GKR||20m||14.335||SSB||Iceland||SOTA S2S TF/SL-199|
|15:53||OK2PDT||20m||14.315||SSB||JJ00aa||Czech Republic||JAN LAVICKA|
40m Activation #2
I re-clipped to 40m to get Jordan in the log S2S into Wales. Good to hear him out and about, and then I re-spotted for a final couple of 40m contacts. At the end I heard Jose EA2IF asking if I could go back to 20m as he was struggling to hear me on 40m. He is such a SOTA legend I couldn’t disappoint!
|16:00||MW3TMX/P||40m||7.181||SSB||Wales||OP: Jordan, SOTA S2S GW/SW-006|
20m operation for EA2IF
It took about 5 minutes to complete the QSO with Jose but we got there in the end, a case of repetition until the transmissions got through the deep QSB.
Final 2m QSOs
Checking Whatsapp after packing up I found Nigel wondered if I was still doing VHF. Using the stock whip he was 59 with me and so was Steve who piggybacked on the end of the QSO for the points.
I’d decided to descend Pillar via Black Sail Pass for a couple of reasons:
- I was running very low on water and had spotted that Gatherstone Beck had a very healthy flow.
- More ridge line traverse, never a bad thing - keep those views coming!
- I don’t like retracing steps if I can help it.
- Originally I had thought of activating Kirk Fell, until time ran away from me.
Traverse to Black Sail Pass
Looking back to Pillar
saving Kirk Fell for another day
At the pass crossroads
Just after the descent started I took the opportunity to fill my water bottle from the beck. Nigel M5TUE told me before that he’d never had any ill effects from drinking water straight from becks, if you use your head. The water tasted wonderful! However, I was curious to see what effect the chlorine tablets would have on the water, so dropped one in and 30 minutes later was happy to find that I could hardly tell the difference.
The descent was easy if not long! My phone was now low so I took the opportunity to use the 12v to USB adapter I carry to charge it from the LifePo4. As it happens my Strava tracking stopped when I was ready to at the Wasdale Head Inn, where I had a very well earned beer and pork pie!
Beer and a quid pork pie
The walk back to the car park was about 2.5 miles but good under foot and flat!!! Fortunately I wasn’t feeling any ill effects, either muscles or feet, so this was a nice unwind.
Thank you so much to all the dedicated chasers! What a day!
My final message: you simply must visit Steeple on a nice day