Category: Adventure Radio

SOTA from Mont Tremblant VE2/LR-002

By , July 25, 2013 4:11 pm
Martin & Fariba at the start of the hike

Hiking up Mont Tremblant

This past weekend (Saturday July), Fariba and I participated in the VE2 Summits On The Air Mega Activation 2013 event.  This was a gathering of SOTA enthusiasts, camping in Mont Ste. Anne near Quebec City.  That’s a 5 hour drive from Ottawa.  Due to the fact that we could not leave work until 5pm on Friday, we chose instead to drive 90 minutes to Mont Tremblant in the Laurentian Mountains instead.  

So we put another VE2 summit (VE2/LR-002) on the air along with the other summits:

 
    15:00 VA3SIE/VE2/P on VE2/LR-002 7.032-cw,7.285-ssb,14.063-cw,14.342-ssb
  *MEGA* Activation of VE2 Summits – http://goo.gl/bpxNY (Posted by VA3SIE)
     15:30 VA2FDT/P on VE2/QC-008 7.032-cw,14.062-cw
  +/- 1h (Posted by VA2FDT)
     16:00 VA2OTA on VE2/QC-003 14.064-cw,10.120-cw,7.028-cw,146.52-fm
  VE2Megactivation – aprs.fi VA2SG-7 – Pse work all of us tnx (Posted by VA2SG)
     16:00 VE2PID on VE2/ES-018 14.062-cw,10.120-cw,7.032-cw,146.52-fm
  With Jean VE2JCW SOTA Megactivation (Posted by VE2PID)
     16:00 VE2JCW on VE2/ES-018 14.060-cw
  es others bands (Posted by VE2JCW)
     16:00 VA2VL/P on VE2/QC-147 14.062-cw,14.285-ssb,7.032-cw,7.285-s
  Mégactivation, also on 2m fm and cw (Posted by VA2VL)
     16:00 VE2 & CO on VE2/QC-??? 14.062-cw,14.345-usb,7.200-lsb,7-032-cw
  Some activators did not post alerts. Watch for them also ;-) (Posted by VA2SG)
     16:00 VA2RAC on VE2/QC-003 7.280-ssb18.130-ssb21.285-ssb
  Special callsings from Radio Amateur of Canada OP:Gil VA2CG (Posted by VA2CG)
     17:00 VE3EMB on VE2/QC-003 14.285-usb,146.52-fm
  M E G A C T I V A T I O N V E 2 S O T A (APRS VE3EMB) (Posted by VE3EMB)
     17:00 VA2IEI/P on VE2/QC-184 7.280-ssb,14.342-ssb
  MEGACTIVATION VE2 pour novice (Posted by VA2IEI)
     18:00 VE2PBZ on VE2/QC-003 14.285-usb,146.520-fm
  Megactivation VE2SOTA.ORG ; VE2PBZ-7 on APRS.FI (Posted by VE2PBZ)

The true summit of the Mont Tremblant massif is the Johannsen Peak.  At 968m, it’s an 8 point summit (just 32m short of a 10 pointer).  The hiking trail (Johannsen Trail) to the summit is a 7km trek at a steady 10% incline.  The trail crosses a few streams which SEPAQ have constructed bridges over and a few boggy regions which have also been bridged with planks or branches.  The summit at the top is a cleared area with a summit marker.  There are tall trees all around the clearing.

I purchased a day access pass from SEPAQ before leaving home.

For a change of scenery we chose to hike back along the ridge line of the massif to the top of the ski trails along the Summits Trail.  This trail dips down around 100m and then back up to some smaller peaks affording one or two nice view points.  There is no view at Johannsen and only one brief view point about  of the way up the climb.  This trail is 5km in length, dips down to 780m at points but ends up just 50m or so below the elevation of the Johannsen Peak.

By the time we completed all this hiking we chose to ride the cable car back down the mountain to the ski village.

VE2/LR-002 Trail Map

VE2/LR-002 Trail Map

 

I was using my Yaesu VX-8r to monitor repeater VE2RBH near a summit in the OU region (Riopon, QC –  Summit Le Grand Pic VE2/OU-005).  That repeater is 69km from Mont Tremblant and once I was about 1/3 of the way up the trail I was able to use it fairly consistently.  I made contact with Roger VE3NPO who loves close to my home QTH.  Roger was in his cottage and without power.  A powerful storm had swept through the region the previous day.  The storm had whipped up tornados and produced heavy rain and damaging hail.

I was also beaconing APRS.  Once I got up around 1/2 of the way to the summit, digipeaters on summits Mont Ste. Marie VE2/OU-001 (105km distant) and Mont Laurier VE2/LR-001 (94km distant) were able to pick up my packets and re-broadcast them to local digigates and my track started showing up on the internet via APRS-IS.  Patrick ON4CDJ and likely others were following my track on sites like APRS.fi and watching my progress.  During the activation I also received APRS messages from JP VA2SG advising me of heavy rain and Fred DL9MDI encouraging me to SOTA Fever.

ON4CDJ tweeted that he was following my hike via APRS

Tweet from ON4CDJ

I guess the rain which JP mentioned was the storm which has blown through this region on Friday… it was moving East.  The weather at Mont Tremblant was great.  It was a little cool on the hike up which was welcome and the weather was a mixture of sun and intermittent clouds, brightening up to consistent sunshine for the hike back down.  Sunday was a scorching hot day which I spent by the pool-side in our hotel at the base of the mountain, glad we never activated on Sunday, too hot.

APRS Messages

APRS Messages

 

Setup

VA3SIE at the summit of Mont Tremblant sitting on a chair with KX3 on lap

Summit Mont Tremblant

At the summit, I set up an 84′ inverted-L antenna made from #26AWG silver plated teflon coated wire by throwing the antenna wire over a tall pine on one side of the clearing and attaching string to the end of the wire and throwing it across the clearing over another tall tree.  I use fishing weights for this.  The inverted-L went up vertically from my operating location around 30′ and then horizontal for the remaining 54′.  There were two other hikes who arrived and were amused by my efforts (took a few attempts to get the wire placed optimally).  One of the hikers asked to take a photo with us.   I set up two counterpoise wires running back into the bush behind my operating position around 5 feet off the ground.  One 31′ wire for 40m and one 16′ wire for 20m.

I set up a small camp chair at the bottom of the antenna wire and brought out my Elecraft KX3 radio and connected it to the antenna using a banana plug to BNC converted (pomona).  I hooked up the battery (a rugged lithium iron unit from buddipole), morse paddles and finally a Heil BM-10-5 headset which has fantastic audio and is very light.  I was all set to go by 1545Z.

 

40m SSB

Signpost at the Summit

Signpost at the Summit

I tuned first on 40m SSB to 7.285MHz to see if I could hear any other mega activation stations.  Tuning around and I bumped into adventurer Denis VA2IEI very weak on 7.280MHz.  Denis was on VE2/QC-147 (Cap Gribane).  I called Denis a few times and he was able to pick me up.  We had just completed exchanging our signal reports and summit references when an extremely loud carrier appeared right on frequency.  It was a carrier of an AM amateur station who had not bothered to check for the presence of other operators on his carrier frequency.  Not to worry though, the first contact was in the bag.   And it was a Summit-to-Summit contact!!

I did note a spot for VA2VL/P on the same mountain (20m) but I did not hear him. 

Sat 15:46 VA2VL/P on VE2/QC-147 14.0624 cw
  *CQ CQ at 17 wpm. S/N=18 dB at NY3A {Via RBNGate} (Posted by KU6J)

I spotted myself using my blackberry and then I remained on 40m SSB for 15 minutes working a variety of chaser stations.  The SOTA Jerks popped up out of the ether as NE1SJ, they had mounted an expedition to Mt. Greylock and they were looking for mega-activation stations.  Fantastic, another Summit-to-Summit contact on 40m SSB.  It was great to work Frandy N1FJ and Jim KK1W from Mont Tremblant.

 

20m SSB

View from the Summit Trail

View from the Summit Trail

I shifted gears up to 20m SSB next.  I parked myself on 14.280MHz, checked that the frequency was clear and then set the KX3 to calling CQ.  The KX3 will record a CQ call from the microphone and then play it out at intervals.   What a nifty feature!!   Once the KX3 was hard at work, I spotted myself again using the blackberry.  I have enjoyed viewing pictures and reading accounts of some of the activations achieved by these same chasers who I was working from Mont Tremblant.  So it was a real pleasure to recall images while I was chatting away.

I suspect that I have made contact with Phil NS7P, Rich N4EX and Dennis WA2USA on pretty much every SOTA activation I have done in North America.   They are all super sloths (more than 10,000 chaser points).   To put that into perspective this contact earned each of them 8 additional points.  N4EX is a double super sloth (more than 2 X 10,000 points) Everyone was keen to work mega-activation stations so I was pleased that I made the effort to hike Mont Tremblant.  Thanks Guys!

I hope this blog article gives Dennis WA2USA all the information he needs about Mont Tremblant.   Dennis looks forward to activating Mont Tremblant in future.

I particularly enjoyed my contact with John N0EVH.  I have made many morse code contacts with John as part of the Polar Bear Moonlight Madness Events (PBMME) in the past using my KX1.   So it was interesting to finally be able to put a voice to the fist and share an SSB contact.   :mrgreen:

A quick check of sotawatch at 1615Z after completing a bunch of 20m SSB and I noted that VE2DDZ had started operationing on 20m SSB also just a few kHz down the band.  I tuned down but could not hear him.  I guess the distance between us was too short. 

Sat 16:16 VE2DDZ on VE2/QC-003 14.277 ssb
  *Spot[VE2DDZ]: QRV now (Posted by SMS_NA)

 

20m CW

Fariba on the Hike

Fariba on the Hike

At this point I switched over to 20m CW.  I have been having some trouble with the KX3 paddle so apologies to the chasers for my bad fist.   Pierre VE2PID told me that Elecraft are offering a free kit of parts to rectify the problem which I just ordered online… thanks Pierre!  My first 20m CW contact was with John N0EVH again.  John’s CW signal was much stronger than his SSB signal.  Physics in Action!  I may have copied the next call incorrectly, W5IHI?   Apologies if I messed that up.

20m gave me a string of additional contacts including  newly minted Super-sloth Jack W7CNL who entered super-slothdom on this very weekend and the old goat Steve WG0AT.  There were some concurrent activations being spotted in the US (K0JQZ on W0/SR-064N4SR on W4T/CA-013N0PCL on W6/SD-011).  I did tune over for a Summit-to-Summit attempt with those stations but the propagation Gods frowned upon my attempts.

 

40m CW

Martin on the Hike

Martin on the Hike

I tuned back over to 40m and this time CW.  I received a call from Pierre VE2PID at 1645Z.  I had thought that Pierre might be on a summit, he had alerted a plan to activate J.S.Bourque VE2/ES-018 with Jean VE2JCW.  After I got back and checked the reflector, I discovered that Pierre had postponed his activation and that Jean VE2JCW station had suffered some storm damage.  Yikes!   Hope it wasn’t too bad, Jean!  Pierre described our contact as un contacté très péniblement.  A very painful contact.  

This brings home to me just how powerful the KX3’s filtering is.  Pierre’s signal on my end was a strong 599 signal and easily readable.  I had the DSP noise blanker, noise reduction and a tight filter dialled in to counteract the atmospheric noise from the passing storm.  Pierre was using his (brought out from a well earned retirement) KX1.   I rememeber what thunderstorm QRN sounded like on the KX1  8-)    

I plan to use my KX1 next weekend.   It should be stormy :lol:

Also on 40m CW I had another Summit-to-Summit contact with NE1SJ on Mt. Greylock W1/MB-001.  I enjoyed a CW contact with Phil VE1WT because he checked in again on SSB later in the afternoon, so like N0EVH before him, I had a chance to put a voice to the fist.  Another QRP Polar bear in this bunch was Scotty KG3W.   I was also pleased to make contact with a station in my home QTH of Ottawa, Ontario.  It was Dave VE3KLX, a member of my local QRP chapter.  Fantastic!

I rounded the afternoon’s radio operations off with a stint on 40m SSB.  Apart from a surprise visit by VE1WT, I have to also say thanks for KJ4ZFK who worked hard against the QRN to complete the final QSO of the afternoon.

 

Hike Down

Hike Down

Hike Down

We decided to exit via the cable car because there is a beautiful 5km hike along the ridge line along the top of the massif.  The ‘Summit Trail’ dips down into 3 X 100m cols (and climbs)  separating 2 summits both of which have nice views.  There is no view at Johannsen peak.   We could not get a straight answer about when the cable car ceased operation.  Some folks told us it may not be running at all.  Some told us it would take the last passenger at 4pm.  A few said 4:30pm.  We timed our packup of the station and our hike along the ridge to reach the cable car at 4pm to be on the safe side.

When we got to the cable car, out of breath because we really rushed the last half of the hike, we discovered that it closes at 6:30pm that evening due to a private function in the ski station.   It’s a shame we didn’t know that ahead of time because as we were hiking along, I got a tweet from Szabi VA2FDT that he had waited out a big rain shower and was just setting up his station at Mont Val-Belair VE2/QC-008.   I also started seeing some spots from the mega activation VA2OTA at Mont Ste. Anne VE2/QC-002 as well.  Oh well never mind, next time I’ll telephone the cable car station from Johannsen to make sure.

The summit trail hike was fun and energetic (as we thought we were on a schedule).  The trail climbs up almost (within 50m) to the same height as the true summit at the cable car station, so it was fairly taxing (I got big leg cramps that night).   All in all it was a very successful activation.  30 contacts including a couple of Summit-to-Summits.   More importantly, another VE2 summit on the air during the mega activation and a chance to re-connect with the SOTA community.   As I lounged by the pool in the hotel at the base of the mountain on Sunday with a warm beer in my hand, I realize how much fun it was.

Activation Video

 

Or watch full screen in High Definition:   High Definition

 

 

My Log

Date:20/Jul/2013 Summit:VE2/LR-002 (Mont Tremblant) Call Used:VA3SIE/VE2/P Points: 8 Bonus: 0 

Time Call Band Mode Notes
15:48z VA2IEI 7MHz SSB Summit-to-Summit VE2/QC-147 (Cap Gribane)
15:56z N4LA 7MHz SSB Thank Todd
15:56z N1EU 7MHz SSB Thanks Barry
15:56z KK1W 7MHz SSB Summit-to-Summit W1/MB-001 (Mount Greylock)
15:58z NE1SJ 7MHz SSB Summit-to-Summit W1/MB-001 (Mount Greylock)
16:06z NS7P 14MHz SSB Cheers Phil
16:07z ND0C 14MHz SSB Thanks Randy
16:10z N0EVH 14MHz SSB Cheers John
16:11z WA2USA 14MHz SSB Thanks Dennis
16:12z N4EX 14MHz SSB Thanks Rich
16:13z W6UB 14MHz SSB Cheers Larry
16:13z N4EMG 14MHz SSB Thanks for persisting, Ed!
16:28z N0EVH 14MHz CW CW as well as SSB. Cool. Thanks John
16:30z W5IHI 14MHz CW Correct call?
16:30z W7CNL 14MHz CW Thanks Jack
16:32z NO2D 14MHz CW Cheers Pete
16:33z K4EAY 14MHz CW Thanks Carl
16:35z AA4AI 14MHz CW Cheers Bob
16:38z WG0AT 14MHz CW Thanks Steve. Go GOATS!
16:39z W7RV 14MHz CW Cheers Tom
16:45z VE2PID 7MHz CW Thanks for persisting, Pierre
16:50z NE1SJ 7MHz CW Summit-to-Summit W1/MB-001 (Mount Greylock)
16:57z KG3W 7MHz CW Thanks Scott
17:00z K2YGM 7MHz CW Cheers Bob, ur 3W FB
17:02z VE1WT 7MHz CW Thanks Phil
17:02z VE3KLX 7MHz CW Cheers Dave
17:08z N1AW 7MHz SSB Thanks
17:09z VE1WT 7MHz SSB Nice SSB thanks!
17:10z NE4TN 7MHz SSB Thanks Walt
17:16z KJ4ZFK 7MHz SSB Thanks for hanging in there, John!

Stormy SOTA Activation of Mont Morissette, QC

By , August 12, 2011 2:56 pm
NOAA Timeline

NOAA Timeline

Michel VE3EMB, Tom VA2EPR and I drove up the the parking lot at the base of Mont Morissette,  VE2/OU-014 in Quebec.  We climbed 150m to the summit on a paved road, steep in places, carrying our gear and beaconing on APRS from a fishing pole supported roll up J-pole attached to my backpack (see out track here).   When I got the the summit, I attached the J-pole to a fence to beacon our position during the activation.

When we got to the summit, Tom set up a 6m dipole and a 2m arrow beam antenna and proceeded to complete a QSO with Bob, VA3QV in Ottawa (read his account here) using 5W from his FT-817.  Tom also called CQ on 2m and 6m SSB for a while but was unable to raise any stations.  Bob was using a couple of loop antennas at roof height and 50W on 2m, 100W on 6m.

I tossed a couple of strings into a pair of tall trees and put up an 88′ doublet (EDZ on 20m) at around 40′ and Michel hooked up his Flex 1500 SDR radio and ASUS Notebook computer powered by 3 duct taped lantern batteries.  I also helped Tom to get his W3EDP antenna up high into the trees elsewhere on the summit.

Video courtesy of Tom, VA3EPR

At the start of the activation (1300Z), the bands were in bad shape, there was a G3 (Strong) solar flare the previous evening (Aug 5th 2200Z) and it was still affecting the bands in the morning (K index = 4).  At the start of the activation, signals on 20m were very very week and subject to persistent fading.  I could not hear a single station on 40m.  Michel was unable to work any PSK stations, so we decided to hook up my KX1 and try CW – I was sure that the chasers would be listening for us and that once we were spotted, the ball would start rolling.

Indeed, after calling CQ on 20m for a while, we were found by chaser NS7P and he was kind enough to spot us on sotawatch as RST 559 into Oregon.  Thereafter, we had the pleasure of working a string of chaser stations, many of whom spotted us on sotawatch.  I would start the QSO, ask the chaser to stand by and then hand over the KX1 to Michel who would make another exchange for this chaser points.  Michel soon got used to the KX1 paddles.  We reached our activation minimum pretty quickly and then we sat back to relax and enjoy the rest of the day at a more relaxed pace.  One memorable QSO was Mike VA6FUN, his signal just went QRT.  We later discovered that he had thunder & lightning and he had to yank the antenna cord out in a hurry 8-)

Meanwhile, Tom was working polar bears on 40m :mrgreen:     He worked Blackjack Bear (Ken, WA8REI) and Dapper Bear (Micheal, VA2NB).  Ken and Micheal apparently share a psychic connection which means that they’re always on the same band at the same time… HI.  Tom was also working chaser stations who were too close for 20m skip on 40m.

We received a couple of calls on the repeater we were monitoring.  Mike VA3MPM called us up as he was driving home to his cottage near Mont Laurier and we arranged a cross-mode QSO on 20m, Mike was using SSB and we were using CW.  Jim, VE3XJ and Gord VE3XGD also called us and sent us APRS messages.

A little later in the afternoon, 20m was sounding stronger so we hooked up the PSK station and Michel was able to complete a PSK contact.  Then I heard Ed Breneisner WA3WSJ, author of the “Amateur Radio Pedestrian Mobile Handbook“.  He was pedestrian mobile (of course! :-D ) on the beach in Cape Henlopen (the Dover Beached in Delaware).  We’ve vacationed in that park with Ed before.  In fact in the past I was pedestrian mobile on that beach while Ed was set up portable some meters away.  So I could very well picture Ed’s precise operating conditions.

Finally, we got a call from Chuck K4QS who confirmed that he could not hear us on 20m at the start of the activation but now we were coming in RST 559 into Virginia.

Thanks(!) to all the chasers who gave us such a fun day out hiking and participating in Summits on the Air.

Frontenac Provincial Park Camping

By , June 20, 2011 8:59 pm

Fariba and I headed for Frontenac Provincial Park this past weekend to do some portaging and canoe camping.  We got beautiful weather!  During the trip, we encountered a swimming snake, a large snapping turtle, sunfish protecting their nests, a chipmunk, four thousand mosquitos, four hundered deerfly, one deer and loads of interesting bugs.  And…  no bears ;-)

We had tons of fun canoeing in this beautiful park, we learned more back country skills/lessons, and of course I got to play radio.  After dinner on Saturday night I got a fire going, poured myself a generous 21 year old Scotch and fired up my KX1.  I was able to get my W3EDP up as a sloper up about 45′.   On Saturday night I heard Mike VA3MPM on the 3730 group net so I gave him a call.  Mike reported that my signal was pretty decent up at his cottage in VE2-land.

The bands were quite noisy but I was able to complete QSOs with AA8V Greg in Frostburg, MD…   KB1CL Wilbur near Boston, MA…   and a 2 X QRP QSO with WB9DLC Mike in IN with using his PFR3.   Finally, I did try a QSO with F3NB on 40m and was able to sneak into his log.

During Sunday morning breakfast (Outrageous Outback Oatmeal and Re-hydrated blueberries) I called into the Pot Hole NetEd VE3GX was the net controller.  Unfortunately, Ed could not hear me well enough.   Mike VA3TJP jumped in and offered to relay me into the net but he was not acknowledged, I guess no one was hearing him either. I did enjoy listening along though…  I especially enjoyed Ernie’s comments about my University Town – Edinburgh, Scotland.  After the net officially closed I had a brief chat with Bob VA3QV and José VA3PCJ who were hearing me though not strongly.   I also tried to check in to the Pot Lid Net but I guess I missed the QNI call and Ed wasn’t hearing me in the last QNI call either :cry:

I heard all the stations, a couple of the net participants (VE3EJJ and VE3BNO) were actually painfully strong.  There’s absolutely no man made electrical noise in the park interior :-D  …I did some antenna analysis and I think I know what I did wrong.  On 80m I had a 2.7:1 SWR when I had both my 16′ and 32′ counterpoises extended.  I coiled up the 32′ counterpoise and my SWR improved to 1:1 so I figured my signal would be stronger.  I just crunched the numbers in EZNEC and actually the antenna gain would have been -1.5dB *less* than if I had left the counterpoise extended.  :oops:

Anyway here are some detailed SSB signal reports for those stations I was receiving:

VA3PCJ 32 peaking 44
VE3EMB 22 peaking 33
VE3GX 43 peaking 55
VE3EJJ 58 peaking 59+
VA2BBW 56 peaking 58
VE3YY 59 peaking 59+
VA3TJP 59
VA3QV 32 peaking 44

After both nets I enjoyed another 2 X QRP contact, this time with Will K9FO who was running 5W from a Flex 1500 SDR.

All in all, a very fun camping trip!

Taking a walk to Pig Island Sun 9th Jan…

By , January 8, 2011 4:02 pm

I saw a tweet from Bob VA3QV this morning:

Rideau Canal Skating open in Ottawa Thinking of walking to Pig Island and operating. It would be a new activation for CISA

Bob's Tweet

Hmm, that sounds like fun!   But I had a boxing class so I could not go out and play in the snow.

Then I saw that Bob is going to return to the island another time and take along a different antenna configuration.  So a quick exchange of tweets later and I am signed up to join Bob for the next hike.  Yay! 8-)

We will operate as VA3RCS (VA3s in a Really Cold Spot) :mrgreen:   using a couple of field-portable QRP HF stations (vertical antennas – it’s a tiny island), and we will monitor VE3MPC repeater on 147.150(+) and 444.4 (+).  Likely we will be participating in the Pot Hole Net from 1300Z to 1400Z and thereafter on 40m & 20m SSB & CW.  Look for our spot frequencies on qrpspots.com.

C.IS.A. stands for the Canadian Islands Award.  This program, administered by the Maple Leaf Radio Society, encourages island activity and island hunting in Canada and helps to stimulate operating activity around the world on the shortwave amateur radio bands.  When an island is activated for the first time, the operator should make a minimum of twenty-five contacts with amateur radio stations in two countries before a new number can officially be used.  That is the objective of tommorow’s activation.

Update: There was some confusion about the CISA rules but that has been resolved now. Our plan to make 25 QSOs in order to activate the island was perfectly legitimate, although there are some things we could have done better, we could for example have provided some notice so that island chasers would have known we were about. I will blog separately about how things went suffice to say it was *huge* fun :-) … and I will be returning to Pig Island in future for another attempt. Details to follow!

Pig Island is the headquarters of the virtual archipelago of The Virtual Noocracy of the  Virtual Archipelago of Pig Island.  It is an island in the Rideau Canal in Ottawa which becomes the Rideau Canal Skateway.  The Rideau Canal Skateway holds the Guinness World Record as the world’s largest Heritage Site and the World’s Largest (no longer Longest) skating rink.

Here is an aprs.fi tracking map, and all going well VA3RCS will show up here on Sunday at 1430Z (9:30am Eastern):


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