Recently I attempted a SOTA activation of Skiddaw G/LD-004. It is an easily accessible summit and a really good MTB route (called Back ‘o’ Skiddaw – although I’m not sure there is a link between the lake district and pirates but we’ll run with it). I’ve ridden it before but it has been a few years and the 17.5m route is straightforward and involves 2 out of the 4 lakeland MTB activities, these are of course:

  1. Riding – Sounds trivial but read on
  2. Pushing – Right its too steep / rocky / muddy. Get off and push the thing (generally up).
  3. Humping – Stage 3 is extreme. You have to carry your bike. It is very heavy after a few meters
  4.  Throwing – This is the last resort and usually used in the summer when vegetation is everywhere. Pick up your bike and throw it on the bracken. Step into the flattened area. Pick up and repeat.

As I said the route is straightforward. The kit is standard….

  1. FT817nd
  2. LiPo – 3S 11.1v 2200mAh
  3. SOTAbeams SB270 (no longer available but a great antenna)
  4. VX-8GR APRS handheld
  5. Fishing pole
  6. End fed half wave antenna and ilertuner
  7. Palm paddle key
  8. 7m fishing pole

So imagine the scene. Dropped son off at cub camp and parked up. the sun is shining and the breeze is gentle. A good spring day. No need to check the high level weather forecast as you can see the summit. Assume its a bit colder and windier up top so pack a lightweight fleece.

Ride off. Enjoy the view. Here are a few photo’s

Nobody this way
Or that way…excellent








Windy, cold and rocky. makes riding fun (ish)


I kept my helmet on to keep the heat in

Whilst on stage 2 (pushing) up seat how (a lower summit and not a SOTA one) a fell runner was coming down with full kit on. To the untrained eye this might sound reasonable but as this is Cumbria it is rare to see a fell runner (because they are very quick generally, blink and they’ve gone…into the mist) and its even rarer to see one wearing a jacket. I was concerned. Sure enough the wind got stronger and stronger. Even though I was on the windward face I was shielded or in some kind of wind flow niceness. It didn’t last. Over the top of the ridge and it was howling and cold. Quick up the top and find a windless spot on the leeward side of the summit.

Skiddaw is a loose rocky summit that is old, as are all the lakeland summits and valleys for that matter but thats a whole new post. The summit might have been in a wind tunnel. 40+mph and around 3c. Not good when you’re in shorts. So on with the spare clothes and set up. No chance of HF today and VHF was going to be a quick one. I tried 2m USB but couldn’t keep the antenna straight so switched to FM and added more rocks to the support. No joy. I had to drop it to ground level and made do with the few contacts I made. Not what I planned at all.

There will be many morals to take from this experience. I like to focus on the positives and ignore the negatives, it helps block out the cold in this instance. So the main points…..

2 hours up……..10 minutes down…….great down hill section weaving around the many walkers who on the whole were much better behaved than they have been in the past. Just don’t touch the brake rotors for a while and keep them spinning. 😉

Next summit will be…….TBC


  • Peter Harling

    Brilliant! …. I could feel the pain as I read the words, lol …. Yes, that was a real world encounter, thanks for sharing.

  • Greg

    As a fellow mountain biker I am jealous of your ride. Wonderful pictures!

    I have often considered taking my FT817nd along, but the radio and all of the supporting equipment becomes quite heavy. I find just taking water, food and cameras along gets too heavy for the longer rides here in British Columbia.

    Have you taken out the internal battery pack of the 817 and just run it off the LiPo? That would lighten the radio somewhat.

    • Alex

      Thanks Greg. It was a pretty short ride and I used an osprey 20ltr rucksack but keep the food and gear in. The most annoying bit is the antenna pole. I think I need to rethink the whole antenna set up.

      I have only taken an APRS handheld when I’ve gone bike packing but even that was too much. After 2 day 2grams feel like 2kg.

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