Large Square OV Page Last Updated: 16 Mar 2011
1977 Activation of OV00 North Yorkshire
1988 Activation of OV00 North Yorkshire
1990 Activation of OV00 North Yorkshire
1999 descent of Beast Cliff
2006 Activation of OV00 North Yorkshire
OV00 North Yorkshire - First Activation
The First OV00 Activation 8 September 1977
The First OV00 QSL Card
OV00 North Yorkshire - 1988
OV00 Activation 1988
Left to Right: G4YIP, G4YXV, G1SGB, G1PEY, SWL, G1SDI, G4SSH, G1LUN
OV00 North Yorkshire - 1990
All pictures courtesy of Steve G0SGB, and captions by Dave G4IAR
A Neat, Orderly Operation
Can't I Have The Tin Of Beer Instead?
Does What It Says On The Box
I'm The King Of The Castle
It's Not My Fault The Cliff Fell On Your Rig
I've Got A Kidney Going Spare
Just What Did You Put In These Burgers?
Just What I Wanted - A Box Top
Son Of My Father
That Was The Year That Was
That's Nice - What Is It?
The Cliff Top Array
The Cliff Top Shack
You Really Don't Want To Hear Me Sing
BEAST CLIFF - OV00 - North Yorkshire
Descent 4 July 1999 (Sunday Evening) by G4YSS
Mud slope pitch with fixed rope completely disappeared. Cliff has slid down
here taking ropes, trees and vegetation. Proceed with caution along upper edge
of slide going south until slide can be safely crossed. Walk north to regain
route at bottom of lower cliff on plateau.
Bracken 8 feet tall with no route through it. Trampled route to re-establish it
all the way down to top of ladder.
A scene of devastation and defoliation. A major slide has started at the edge
of the lower cliff removing the route and steps to the top of the ladder. The
steel pipe previously knocked in to the cliff about 3-4 feet from the edge to
provide a belay point is now 9 inches from the new cliff edge. A fixed rope/ropes
still joins the pipe to the top of the ladder. The large rock immediately to
the north of the ladder has cracked away and fallen. This was supporting the
The ladder is no longer leaning on the cliff face but is in an upright position
in space anchored only by it's foot clamps and bars but still fastened loosely
to the belay tube by the remains of ropes, which, if pulled, cause the ladder
to spring back and forth. The steel anchor points have come out.
The route below the ladder is badly affected by mud slides and mud/rock
deposits from above. The fixed ropes on the lower slope are mostly buried.
A notice has been tied to the descent point fence post at the upper cliff top
advising that the route to OV00 is impassable and that the route to the plateau
is only passable with care.
It is assumed this damage was done when, on the 4,5,6 & 7 March 1999, it
rained non-stop, causing flooding in the area.
At the present time this "Direct Route" to OV00 is out of service. It
would not be possible to route an expedition safely down at this point on the
It is doubtful whether repairs to this route are possible as the character of
the cliff since the route was commissioned in 1987 has changed so much.
Repairs to the route may be possible in a number of years time, provided
vegetation re-grows over bare soil to re-stabilise the surface. However, this
will involve a great deal of work, preceded by a detailed survey.
The only practical route to OV00 is now via Common Cliff and south past Rocky
Point at low tide. Only with a trained climber and full equipment is a direct
WAB'ers will be pleased to note that OV00 has now returned to its pre July
1987 status, i.e. 'Extremely Rare'.
John Earnshaw - G4YSS
5 July 1999.
OV00 North Yorkshire - 2006 Activation
Activation of OV00, via Beast Cliff, 30th April 2006, John G4YSS
Part 1: Trail breaking, 28th March 2006 to 16th April 2006
Thoughts of this year's activation go back to last summer when someone at the
Scarborough Amateur Radio Society told me they might be doing OV soon. 'OK Angus, good luck but if you don't get around to it, I probably will.'
Angus got into moon-bounce and forgot all about it. On 15 January 2006 Brian G0BFJ, asked me about OV during a SOTA QSO.
Graham G4JZF commented too. Clearly there was renewed interest in OV00, last aired in 1998 but as always, the 160m Beast Cliff,
consisting really of two cliffs with a plateau in between, stood firmly in the way.
Living within a 30 minute drive of Ravenscar gives me a terrific advantage and allows a totally
different approach. Perhaps I have read too many old Everest books but unlike some fearless souls
(e.g. G0BFJ) I have never been able to activate this one 'cold' via an unprepared direct route. I am
not a rock climber but I think the term is 'Alpine Style.' That 45m lower cliff gives me bad dreams.
Its top can be accessed with a modicum of determination but once reached, it sits there in apparent
defiance, seeming to say, 'you can see the beach, come on down; just try it!' It doesn't look too bad
until you realise the scale of it, its instability and the small matter of a relentless vertical
section served by steep torn and cracked, debris-strewn slopes above and below. 'OK' you say,
'thanks but no thanks, I'll just go along your lip until I find an easy way down.' You will
walk a very long way with that in mind and once down, moving long-shore over an endless
collection of large, slimy randomly-stacked rocks is a challenge in itself.
So, what are the alternatives? These boil down to going south along the foreshore either
from near Ravenscar or going north from Hayburn Wyke. I have done both and it's not that simple or easy.
There is a chance of tidal cut-off either way. You wouldn't drown but you'd be stuck in OV for an unscheduled 5 hours or more.
Other than a boat or helicopter, that just leaves the option of a progressive assault, which gradually builds up
a complete semi-permanent way and gets you there in the end. In 1987 this plan resulted in the 'Blue Route,' all of
which disappeared without trace under mud-slides between 1999 and 2002. Now in 2006, the 'Orange Route' has been
identified, cleared and marked, starting almost 5 weeks before the latest activation. This method makes it
straightforward on the day, easier for others who come later and as in 1987, there's a chance the route will
be 'adopted' by the local anglers and coastguard. Against this must be weighed the work required up-front
and the ever-present danger that this 'living' cliff will once again do its unseen worst on some stormy night.
Like any project, it's easier if you can get a flying start and in late March, I found a promising path,
evidently used by foxes, leading from the Cleveland Way at NZ 99339 00497, down the 75m upper cliff, to the
plateau at NZ 99410 00622. The next visits made this path fit for 'human consumption' by increasing headroom
and removing other major obstructions, using a wood-saw and then marking it with orange paint and a GPS. Getting lost down there is remarkably simple.
Once onto the plateau's 'main drag,' basically a deer path, it is a simple matter to go and have a look into OV.
Or so I thought. The first attempt had me floundering about in thorny undergrowth and still 500m north of target.
I wasted time trying to find a way down here. Next time got me my first view since 2002, into the old familiar OV.
Nothing much had changed below the tide-line, the same rocks and the wrecked Premier's boiler, all in their former
locations but I couldn't see anything about the cliff that I could remember from before. All was destruction,
or was it re-birth? Of 1987 vintage ladder, ropes and stakes, there was not the slightest trace.
Beast Cliff had 'digested' the lot and not even spit out the bones.
The one thing that I had been longing to check was a possible way down that I had identified and video'd
during a 2002 walk-in to OV from Hayburn Wyke. It had looked relatively easy from below, except for the hazard
of newly fallen rocks perched threateningly at all angles but there was still that short vertical section high up.
It looked more intimidating from above but a 'gardening session' might remove most of the danger and there had been
slight re-growth of vegetation. I would certainly need another ladder but the subject point could just barely
be overlooked from the top of a rock tower, which protruded out from the cliff, a short distance away.
I 'roped down' onto the top of this temporary looking edifice on the 6th April and took one or two very useful photographs.
Mainly because of fallen fine debris, which had consolidated at its foot, the vertical section here was the shortest
I had seen in a long time, perhaps as little as 2.5m! Surely this had got to be the hoped for weak point.
I spent much of the remaining time 'heaving' lose boulders over the edge before belaying from a convenient
bush and using a 'Bachman Knott' (a kind of prussik loop idea) for my first close inspection of the rock face from above.
At both sides of me, the top slope was seeping an ugly ooze, which would not support my weight, but there was thankfully,
a narrow gap of relative dryness and meagre stability where I could stand and look down.
In my garage hung an old ladder, surplus to requirements, which was a bit shaky but would do the job.
I cut it in half, fixed the two halves back together for a double strength 2.3m long ladder and painted it.
This I carried down on the 12th April, along with ropes, angle iron and tubular stakes, a lump hammer and
an ex-army matock for cutting steps. The critical part of this entire exercise was the ladder placement. It was a matter of holding on to the safety rope with one hand, shuffling to the edge of the drop and lowering the thing over using on a rope. Once it was resting on the slope below and lashed temporarily at the top, I had the courage to gingerly descend it. A mixture of angle iron, steel tubing stakes and lashings, secured the lower end to the shaley, 45 degree incline.
This was a 'long day at the office' but its culmination was a quick sortie down into OV with the reward of a nice 9m length of rope, found tangled around rocks below the tide line. It was incorporated into the 'installation' so that the ladder was now held against the vertical rock with two double ropes at its head and with stakes at its foot.
The part that had caused me loss of sleep was now safely behind me and I could build on what I had. And build I must. The ladder was at least a metre too short! You had to slither down blind over wet muddy rock, in the hope your feet would land on the top of the two uprights. I remember it was similar in 1987. A 14-foot heavy-duty ladder, made on site from trees, was barely long enough then, and now 19 years later the scale of this cliff had again been underestimated. Do I remove my 'stairway' and find a longer one? Surely that would be even more frightening than deploying it and that had been bad enough. The angled slope above it was hard to stand on, even with steps cut and after a short while working there, your legs really ached.
Simple, don't remove it, just extend it. Using some 'three by two,' a bit of 'six by two,' and some new rope, a
sturdy four-rung rope-ladder was 'knocked up' at home and on the 16th April, fixed above the rigid one.
Just one more visit to tidy loose ends and all would be ready for the 'radio bit' pencilled in for the 30th.
Off I went to activate Scafell Pike on the 17th, with a quiet confidence about Beast Cliff, so long as the weather stayed dry. Two days later I caught a rather nasty 'lurgy' from the XYL, which caused us to abandon our holiday midweek. I would be lucky to make the 30th of April activation date, never mind an interim visit. I just hoped that I and the route, would be fit and the WX prerequisites would come to pass.
Part 2: The wireless bit, 30th April 2006
I was away from War Dyke Gate by 09:00 carrying 42 pounds plus an ancient video camera. The 6m makeshift mast and two bamboo dipole end-supports would be staying down there for anyone to use, so I was not too concerned about the weight. I didn't have rope to spare for fixing on the upper cliff so I took along 30m of thick line to assist for today, on the steep mid section. It was a dry day, so I could have managed without. Judging by what happened in 1987, it may be that ropes will mysteriously appear, once the route is 'discovered.'
With the 'plateau predators' in mind, I had donned a one-piece overall, zipped up to the neck and two pairs of fine-weave socks well tucked in. Four deer ticks had buried their ugly heads in my flesh in early April and I decided that of the three risks on offer, I preferred the adders and the rock face! In April, the bracken is low and dead, making for easy progress, compared to say July. The adders bask in sunshine on south facing slopes. As often happens, two frightened deer ran crashing through undergrowth to get away from me. These were females; the stags stand their ground and bellow. The primroses were a delight.
Annoyingly, the video camera's battery had packed-in well before the ladder, so that was left behind. Nobody had interfered with the 'cliff furniture,' it was just as I left it, so I secured myself to the belay point (at NZ 99922 00040) with my 23m rope and inched down the slope onto the rope ladder. The rope can be shorter than this but the extra is handy on the steep slope below the rock section, especially with a big load. The safety rope provides most of the confidence needed to take the next few steps over the edge but I was relieved to get that big rucksack and me to the start of the last obstacle; the lower slope. Small cut-steps help but I dare not cut anything larger as it is likely to cause movement during rainfall. From the ladder it's diagonally South of East, then straight down through the 'last gasp' of NZ90 and into OV.
At 10:30, the water was not quite back far enough; low water being scheduled for 12:36 BST, with a 5.7m range. There was little wind but a 2 to 3 foot swell rode noisily in. Luckily I'd remembered the headphones.
Aside from position measurements of one particular rock, that I had made in 1998 and repeated in 2002, there has not yet been a GPS survey
of the NZ/SE/TA/OV grid line intersection position. I didn't have time for one now but chose my operating position on the strength of a
12-channel averaging GPS after re-checking the 'datum rock' mentioned above. Agreement was within a metre or so, which indicated significantly
better system accuracy than the declared 15m. Despite the proximity of the cliff, plenty of satellites were coming in at good strengths and
EPE was down to 3.5m. There is no future in cutting things too fine but balanced against this is operating time availability. With these
things in mind, the mast was erected at OV 00013 00022, with the 80m dipole ends at OV 00020 00005 at the South and OV 00011 00039 in the
North (All averaged over 5 minutes). This is close to where I have traditionally operated and the water did not return here until after 14:30 BST.
There is only a small gradient on the tidal foreshore at this point, so you have to be prepared to move quite quickly at the end.
My friend Roy and fellow member of the SSEG (G4SSH) had been informing the net on 3.760 of my progress and it was he who
I worked first, at 10:24 UTC, lower down the band. Keith GM3VTY was in the chair and was 59 to me, which helped. Next,
in what turned out to be quite a queue was Graham GW4FUJ/M, who had been enjoying a pleasant run around Wales until OV had the temerity to 'hit the air.' We exchanged at 22 and he seemed pleased before regrettably disappearing under a wall of OV chasers! Dave and Judith, G4IAR & G4IAQ, who had gone mobile to flee from domestic QRN, were next in the log but after that it became a blur of feverish activity, working old friends and new ops distant and local, as fast as I could scribble. So much for Brian's (G0BFJ) comment, 'you can probably expect a couple of dozen' but I wasn't complaining. Keith and I tried our best to accommodate all who called but inevitably some ops could not get through increasing band noise. Nevertheless 39 were worked on 80m, in as many minutes.
A QSY to 7.060 found Kevin G0AKH, a second willing net controller, who helped feed another half dozen stations into the SSEG log. Now was the time for a photo of the famous ship's boiler, whereupon that 'seventh' wave broke right over my boot tops.
Steve G4HPE, made a bit of history when he became the first person ever to collect OV00 on 5 MHz (Ch FA, 5.2585 MHz USB) and there shortly followed another 11, many of whom were Summits-on-the-Air chasers, coming up to see what, in their eyes classed as bizarre behaviour. Why on earth would someone climb down to sea level to operate, then climb back up again, all for zero points? They did however marvel at the signal strength produced by modest power to a dipole over a North Sea-soaked ground plane.
I heard my son Phil G0UUU, weakly calling me on 145.500 FM from Scarborough just 8 miles away but with my half wave and 5 watts to his 50,
we couldn't make a QSO through this cliff. Periodic CQ's on S20 yielded nothing and mobile phones don't work either, though activators proved in the 80's that a really good VHF setup will deliver QSO's, even from here.
Thanks to Roy G4SSH, just 10 miles due south of me, top band was not a complete failure but I did seem to have some VSWR problems. The rig was 'alive' with RF and I'd forgotten the grounding lead. A folded dry paper towel reduced the pain of handling the CW key, which is merely a miniature centre-biased toggle switch fitted into the microphone.
The next QSY pulled the mast clean over. Dipole links have to be opened and this mast is rigid. It was well worth re-erecting however, as another 9 stations entered the log in the 14.263 SSB column, though I did wonder whether some of them knew what on earth they were collecting. No signs of 'old hands' Gedas, Dan, Vlad, Malik or Karl but strong indications of locally advancing water!
Well, after a brief return to 80m, that was it. It was timely too; the sea was threateningly close to 'sensitive electronics' and I didn't need a repeat of 1987, when my expensive Pentax SLR camera failed a 6 hour, 3m saltwater immersion test on this very spot.
After a bit more GPS'ing and a 'scout around' for evidence of the 1987 route and ladder (none found) it was time to depot the mast, under a rock at NZ 99967 00041, rope up and climb out. I was on the 'top rung' when I heard a loud engine. I looked down for a boat but a big Yellow Sea King helicopter flew closely past me at my level, following the cliff south. The shock made me wobble a bit and produced a camera 'fumble.' I don't know what they must have thought of my antics but I did manage one distant image. The 500 foot climb seemed hard with the remains of the illness, and now an absence of adrenaline but complete with the 'warm glow' that a really good day can produce, I gradually trundled up to the car at around 5 pm.
Many thanks: To the net controllers GM3VTY Keith on 80m and G0AKH Kevin on 40m. To the mobile(s), for their good humour upon getting 'swamped.' To Brian G0BFJ and Graham G4JZF for the inspiration to 'repair' the route. To Roy G4SSH for QSL card support, SSEG Club call, 'radio cover' for the operation and for alerting the Scarborough ops. To each amateur who came on the air to work OV on the day. To Dave G4IAR for informing RSGB news and very nearly bringing Judith & himself for the descent! (Soon perhaps?) To all I forgot to mention 'cos my brain's getting old.
First prize for tenacity goes to Jim M3JPP. His 10 watts couldn't break the pile-up so he sent a message round via Don G0NES. 'Please ask John to call me.' He's in the log!
Eqpt: IC706 Mk2G, (most QSO's around 40 W, 100W for difficult reports). Link dipole for 20/40/60/80m, with H/B adjustable coils for 160m.
Galvanized steel, 8-section, 6m tubular mast with 2.5m 'home grown' bamboo end supports, all three items left on site for general use.
One 7.5 AH sealed lead-acid battery (capacity utilisation was 95%). Miniature earphones to combat 'sea sounds'. Garmin GPS 12. (Full route available in Garmin Mapsource format.) 68 QSO's on 5 LF/HF bands. Nil on 2m FM. A full colour QSL card is available via the Bureau or direct from G0OOO, QTHR.
Observation: One can only imagine the excitement of 1977, when OV had not even been identified as an entity, let alone activated. They had to use surveying equipment to even find it and if it is hard now, it must have been doubly so then, with the radio gear available but they still managed it! That first activation.
73, John G4YSS (WAB 7664)
(Using Scarborough Special Event Group Club-call, GX0OOO/P except on 60m, WAB 11000)
PS: I am not in the pay of the Scarborough Tourist Board but please do come and activate OV00. It will not disappoint.
All images below are courtesy of John G4YSS
A brooding menace - 6th April 2006
Ladder 1 - Over the edge - April 2006
New Ladders - 12th and 16th April 2006
Plateau path - Easy in April - April 2006
Have respect for the locals - April 2006
Trust the Bachman Knot - April 2006
In need of a bit of repointing - April 2006
Upper Beast Cliff - 30th April 2006
First time in anger - 30th April 2006
A hard hat might be more use - 30th April 2006
The worst is now over - 30th April 2006
Safe in OV00 YSN - 30th April 2006
John G4YSS activating OV00 YSN - 30th April 2006
Boiler from the wrecked ship 'Premier'
IC706, GPS and battery
Back To Index