Category: Hiking

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 – (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 – 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 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



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  😎    

I plan to use my KX1 next weekend.   It should be stormy 😆 …

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!

A foggy SOTA activation of Watch Croft in Cornwall

By , July 3, 2013 7:14 pm
On the bridle path up to Watch Croft

On the Bridle Path

We drove to Watch Croft from Hayle following the excellent driving directions provided in M0TYM‘s activation report.   The weather in Hayle was warm and sunny, but we could see a fog bank in the distance.  I was with my wife, my brother-in-law and my sister.

As we approached Watch Croft (West Penwith’s highest hill), it became obvious that the summit was within the fog bank which had rolled in overnight from the coast.   The few meters of land we saw on either side of the B3306 on the drive from St. Ives was picturesque :-?.  This is probably a beautiful drive on any other day. 

A foggy scene with two hikers in the distance

Foggy on the walk up

The approach to Watch Croft was along a bridleway which meanders through heather and bracken amidst old tin mine shafts.   The undergrowth had been recently but back and the smell of cut grass and the noises from birds and insects made for a lovely walk.

As we approached the summit, the wind picked up a little bit and we started to get a little wetter as the fog was clumping into a light rain.

At the 830′ summit there is a stone (burial?) cairn into which someone has built an enclosure and there is a standing stone.

A few feet from those features there are some rocks onto which has been grafted a ‘National Trust’ plaque.   These rocks provided a partial shelter from the wind and rain so this became my operating position.

Summit Cairn & Trig Point

Summit Cairn

I set up the  alexloop walkham antenna on it’s tripod, connected my Elecraft KX3 and buddipole A123 battery, and I tuned up on 40m.   40m.  The band was in much better shape than during my previous activation activation of GM/SS-281 last week.  I heard stations from all over Europe on 40m SSB.   Last week in the wake of a solar storm I was struggling to hear stations in the UK.

I recorded a CQ SOTA message and set the radio to sending CQ.    After 10 minutes of no replies I thought I had better spot myself so I turned on 3G data service on my phone and posted a spot on sotawatch.

09:44 M/VA3SIE/P (Martin) on G/DC-007 (Watch Croft, 253m, 1pt) 7.124 ssb: On summit calling CQ [VA3SIE]

That did the trick!   Within a few minutes I got my first call.  At 09:47Z, MW0IML came booming in with a 5×9 signal from Snowdonia.  After that was EA2CKX at 09:49Z from Northern Spain with a 5×9 signal was hearing me 4×4.

Crouching down and operating KX3 radio on top of some boulders

Operating my KX3 on Watch Croft

A bunch of SSB contacts with stations elsewhere in the UK followed that.   Also at 09:49Z was Steve G6LUZ in South Cheshire with a 5×9 signal reported me as a 5×7.  Mike G6TUH reported me as 5×4 from East Sussex.  

Carolyn G6WRW was 5×9 from Worcestershire and reported my signal as 5×7 at 09:50Z.   Next up was Don G0RQL/P portable in a caravan at 09:53Z.   I had worked Don earlier in the week from Cairn Pat and before that from VE2/ES-009 Mont Sutton.  It was nice to work Don from England as well as from Scotland.  Don was a 5×8 signal and reported me as a 5×6.

 Brian G8ADD in Birmingham and I exchanged 5×9 reports at 09:55Z then Bill G4WSB gave me a 4×9 report (he was 5×9).  At 09:58Z, Victor GI4ONL in Bushmills, Northern Ireland was hearing me at 5×2 and again was coming in 5×9 into Watch Croft.  

My final 40m SSB contact also at 09:58Z was with Glenn GM6HFF/P in Scotland.  Glenn was 5×8 and gave me a 5×4 report.

Janice, Martin & Fariba at the Radio

Operating at Watch Croft

We were starting to get wet so I decided to switch over to 20m CW.   After a short break, I picked a free frequency and re-tuned the loop then I re-recorded a CQ call and set the radio back into a CQ loop.

At 10:06Z I got a call from Heinz HB9BCB/P on the 1,300′ summit of  Schwendelberg in Bern, Switzerland.    Heinz gave me an RST 559 signal report.  He was also RST 559.  Yay!  Summit-to-Summit contact!  Heinz spotted me some minutes later:

10:17 M/VA3SIE/P (Martin) on G/DC-007 (Watch Croft, 253m, 1pt) 14.06130 cw [HB9BCB]


VA3SIE operating from Watch Croft

CQ SOTA from Watch Croft

DL3XZ (?) (Ula?) gave me RST 559 then Carlos CT1BQH in Portugal heard me RST 549.   He was RST 599 into Watch Croft.  At 10:19Z, Friedrich DL1FU reported me at RST 579 into Biedenkopf, Germany and a minute later EA5YI gave me an RST 599 into Valencia, Spain.

I had to quit because we had a reservation at the Minak Theater to get to (this is a great destination for a SOTA enthusiast it’s a theater which has been built into the side of a cliff.

My penultimate contact of the day was the highlight of my SOTA contacts from the UK and was a great way to finish the activation.  I thought I heard a Canadian station and I called ‘VE2?  VE2?’…   turns out it was Jean VE2JCW.  Jean and I have done a couple of SOTA activations together in Quebec for example our activation of Mont Tremblant, here.  Jean posted about our contact here.  

At 10:23Z Jean gave me an RST 229 signal report from Ste. Jerome in Quebec, Canada.  His own signal was fairly strong but had some fading.

 The final contact of the day was with OZ4RT in Denmark at 10:25Z.  My report was RST 570.

I took the station apart, packed everything up into the backpack and hiked back down the trail.   We then headed for Sennen Cove and a Cornish Cream Tea was in order! 


Wet Antenna

Wet Antenna


Post SOTA Cream Tea

Post SOTA Cream Tea

SOTA Activation Planned: Sat August 6th

By , August 5, 2011 6:54 pm


This coming Saturday 6th August, I will be part of a group which will hike to the summit of Mont Morisette in Quebec (1¾-hour drive from Ottawa) and put several radio stations on the air for the ‘Summits on the Air‘ program.

This time I’m hiking with:

We’ll be monitoring the VE2REH repeater network on our hike and we’ll be beaconing on APRS (follow us here).

We plan to be at the summit and on the air by 10am (1400Z)

We’re taking a variety of equipment up the mountain, so you may hear us on 2m SSB, 6m SSB, 20m SSB (14.3425MHz +/-), 20m CW (14.061MHz +/-), 40m CW (7.034MHz +/-) and 2m Simplex (146.520MHz).

If you want to contact us via IRLP/echolink here are the coordinates:

IRLP – 2018
Echolink – 198724

We’ll try our best to keep twitter & qrpspots up to date with our status.

You may also find us spotted on SOTAWatch.

Here are some tracking maps and resources to help you make contact with our group.

We should appear on this map on Saturday!

QRP Spots

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SOTA from Gatineau Park with Tom VA2EPR

By , June 14, 2011 9:16 am
Souvenir Photo

Souvenir Photo

Last Saturday, Tom VA3EPR and myself activated Summits On The Air summit VE2/OU-003 (McKinstry Peak) located in Gatineau Park.

We had posted an alert indicating that we would be on the air from 1500Z (11am).  We had arranged a sked with some other peaks on 40m at 1600Z (12pm).  I got confused 😳 and I thought that 1500Z was actually 10am local time and 1600Z was 11am.  Consequently I missed my sked 😥 …  but we did both manage a summit to summit contact anyway 😎

J-Pole Experiment

We arrived at the Luskville falls trail-head at 8:15am with plenty of time to reach the summit.  I was trying an experiment today.  I knew that the digipeaters were 80-100km distant and especially difficult on the face of the escarpment, so I decided to try a roll-up J-pole.  I mounted it on two sections of fiberglass fishing pole on the side of my backpack.  This experiment enjoyed mixed success.  The J-pole kept catching on tree branches (not surprising really!) but on the other hand, the extra gain of this antenna meant that the digipeaters heard me very well, even on the upper portion of the escarpment face.   I did figure out that collapsing the fiberglass in the most heavily forested areas was possible.

The Video!

(Press the ‘Play’ icon in the center to view)

Climb Up

The trail climbs 800ft up the face of the Eardley Escarpment, first passing the Luskville falls then a short steep scramble climbs up to the pontiac lookout.  I found that VE3TST was the strongest repeater from the trailhead so I dialled that repeater in for the climb.  Part way up, I heard a call from Jim VE3XJ who is an Ottawa Valley QRP Society member,  it’s been a while since I’ve spoken with Jim so it was a welcome QSO.  Shortly thereafter, Ante VA2BBW figured out the CTCSS tone and joined Jim and I on the repeater.

A comedy of errors!

We managed to complete the 800ft climb to the fire tower in 1 hour, we got there by 9:20am and (since my brain was not working) I thought that we only had 40 minutes to get to the summit and get on the air.  Actually we had 1 hour 40 minutes… 😳    Suddenly I realized that I had left my spare H/T battery at home, so I had only one battery to last all day… 😳   So I decided to select low power.  But I couldn’t remember how much power the different levels represent.  I chose to set the radio to the L1 setting.  Jim and Ante had trouble hearing me.  Not surprisingly!  When I got back to the house I checked and L1 is 0.05W (1/20th of a watt!) … 😳 .  Serious QRP!  😎

On the Trail

On the Trail

The Hike

It’s a 2.5km hike along Ridge Road (trail #1) from the fire tower to McKinstry cabin and the summit lies ½km further along the trail.    The ridge road trail is mixed use, in Summer it is mostly used by mountain bikers.  The trail passes by a beautiful lake which I didn’t notice on the way in but which I spotted on the way out.  Maybe a place to swim?  Perhaps not.  As we walked towards the summit, we saw hundreds of dragonflies sunning themselves on the road.  Hmm, what do dragonflies eat?  There must be a lot of dragonfly food up here.  erm…  dragonfiles eat mosquitoes!  The mosquitoes were horrendous.  Both Tom and I liberally applied DEET and I still got bitten many times.

Activation Zone

The VE2/OU-003 summit is at 422m and the VE2 SOTA association manual allows for operation within 25m of the summit.   The ridge road trail intersects the southern limit of the 400m contour line and this portion of the trail is therefore valid for a SOTA activation.  This is a good thing for two reasons.  (1) The summit is heavily forested, it would not be possible to get a horizontal antenna up at the summit.  (2) The Eardley Escarpment is a fragile ecology;  It is a unique microclimate.  The southern exposure and lack of moisture produce the growth of atypical plants for this area and a recent study (the Gatineau Park Ecosystem Conservation Plan) places the summit in the “Integral Conservation Zone” so we don’t want to undertake a damaging bushwhack.

Playing Radio

Playing Radio

Playing Radio

I had prepared two W3EDP antennas for Tom and myself (84′ of wire with a pair of 16′ and 32′ counterpoise wires).  I used fishing weights and nylon string and I was able to get Tom’s antenna up as an end-fed inverted-vee with the center at 45′ and my own up as an inverted-L at 50′.  This is the highest I have been able to get antennas… ever and I think it’s the fishing weights which made all the difference.  The only reason that we were able to get the antennas up so high was because we used tall trees lining the sides of the trail.  We set our stations a few feet into the bush to not get in the way of the mountain bikers.

We arrived at the zone at 10:05 local and we were set up and on the air around 10:30 local.  My brain wasn’t working and I thought that we  were half an our late (we alerted for 1500Z) and we had half an hour until our S2S skeds (planned for 1600Z) but of course I was confused 😳 .   Actually we beat our alerted time by 30 minutes and we had an hour and a half before our sked.

I spent some time with Tom at the beginning and did some listening around to kill time before our sked.  Then an hour early ( 😳 ) I spent a half hour calling CQ on 7.032MHz and never got any replies while Tom was operating on 20m.  I heard Tom stop calling CQ on 20m at 1530Z so I QSYed up to 20m and made a super quick series of contacts with fellow SOTA activators and chasers and the icing on the cake was a summit to summit QSO with Chuck K4QS who was up on The Pinnacle (W4/SH-005), a Summits on the Air Summit in Shenandoah Park, Virginia.  Excellent!  :mrgreen:

Tom @ Firetower

Tom @ Firetower

Since this was Tom’s first SOTA outing, I really wanted him to experience Summit-to-Summit so I dropped my radio the instant I signed with Chuck and dashed over to Tom’s position.  Just as Tom got him tuned in, he quit, so I went back to my station and left 20m to Tom.  I tuned back to 40m and who was there but Chuck!  Cool!  I popped off a quick QRPSPOTS SMS to alert the chaser community and then I dashed back to Tom’s locartion.  This time, Tom was able to get Chuck in his log – Yay!!  :mrgreen:


A break for lunch and then back to the radio, but my QSO rate dropped considerably after lunch.

Band conditions were a bit strange.  I was hearing all stations very strong both on 20m and 40m.  But invariably my signal report was terrible, RST 339 being typical.  Didn’t seem to matter which states.  That’s rather odd – more absorption on signals travelling South vs signals travelling North?  Maybe I should check my finals with a power meter 😎   Still thanks to the hard work of the chasers, I did manage to get 10 QSOs into the log.

The Return Trip

The clouds started to come over and they were looking rather gray.  Forecast was for rain starting at 4pm local time so Tom and I bugged out at 2:30pm.  On the way back, Tom mentioned that the June ARRL VHF contest was underway so when we reached the edge of the escarpment, I raised my J-pole to maximum extension and put out a call on 146.520MHz.  I got a call back from Jamie VA3JME, he was driving through Almonte, Ontario heading for the West Carleton Club‘s VHF contest site.  He was RST 53 over a 40km path, not bad.  He mentioned that WCC were monitoring 146.580MHz so I put out a few calls there but never heard any reply.

We made good time back to the car and the rain started when we got back home.

We both had a super fun time activating VE2/OU-003, despite the bugs 😆


Time Call Band Mode Notes
15:30z W4MPS 14MHz CW Thanks Marc, Hope to work you when you are /P in Éire some day!
15:32z NG9D 14MHz CW Super signal!
15:34z W7CNL 14MHz CW Nice to work you again, Jack!
15:36z W5ESE 14MHz CW Thanks, Scott. I love your Wilderness QRP website!
15:40z KT5X 14MHz CW Nice to work a fellow activator…
15:50z K4QS 14MHz CW Thanks for S2S, Chuck. Hope you had fun on the Pinnacle W4/SH-005
16:40z KE5AKL 14MHz CW Another fellow activator :-)
16:45z KG8YT 7MHz CW Hmm, I *think* this was 40m… correct me if wrong please!
16:50z W4HEX 14MHz CW Nice long QSO, Thanks Will.
17:15z NS7P 14MHz CW Thanks Phil!

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