December 2009 Polar Bear Moonlight Madness

By , December 7, 2009 1:07 am

HF Pack Style!

Saturday 5th December 2009 was polar bear moonlight madness.  I hiked to the summit of Mont Ste Marie, which is a registered summit in the summits on the air program.  I had my hiking stuff and radio equipment in one pack and I had another smaller pack containing a PVC frame attached to it.  I wrote about that setup in some detail in a previous posting.  At 1520Z before I started hiking, I got an APRS message from Darin & Maurice André at the museum.

There was a dusting of snow

There was a dusting of snow

The last time I did this hike, it took me an hour and a half but this time, thanks to the lighter pack (I did not bring along a large mast and chair or wet weather gear), I completed the hike in just over an hour.  Shortly after starting the hike, around 1530Z I received a call from Darin and Maurice André at the Canada museum of Science and Technology amateur radio exhibit station VE3JW.  They were monitoring my progress on a TV screen on which they were showcasing for the visiting public APRS & my SOTA activation – very cool!

I received and sent a few APRS messages as I was hiking up also.  As I neared the summit, I received a call on echolink via the VE2REH repeater network from Jim, W1PID, Polar Bear number 83.  Wow!  It was great to hear from Jim, who also does a lot of outdoor QRP adventuring, just check out his website!  We set up a sked 7035kHz at 1pm Eastern.  Unfortunately I took 10 minutes too long to finish working a pile-up on 20m and when I went to 40m I did not hear Jim.  Propagation may not have been favourable, because I did hold a QSO on 7035kHz and later in an email, Jim mentioned that he tuned back to 7035kHz a few times but didn’t hear me.  Hopefully next time Jim!!

I reached the summit and decided to head for the gazebo, where I attempted a simplex FM contact with VE3JW.  It didn’t work though, at 50W into a 14 element beam(!) they were S5 on my H/T but they didn’t hear my 5W into a rubber ducky signal at all.

I didn’t check it out last time I was on the summit, but what a great spot for playing radio I discovered.  I thought it was the top of a fire-tower last time.  The gazebo is up on a rock ledge and there is rock all around it which looked like it would be good for pedestrian mobile.  There were some ice patches so I had to be careful where I walked!

Look at that big ice patch on the rock!

Look at that big ice patch on the rock!

Preparation time:  I took the KX1 radio out of its protective foam shell, attached paddles, earbuds, and a pomona BNC to banana plug adapter, strapped it to a clipboard with rubber bands, strapped a rite in the rain logbook to the same clipboard with another rubber band and hung a couple of mechanical pencils from the rubber bands, then I put 8 energizer lithium batteries in a radioshack battery holder (with fuse!) inside my fleece with the wire dangling to my knees.

I then twisted the 36′ teflon coated silver plated wire around the fishing pole as I extended it to it’s full 20′ length, reinforcing the twist joints with electrical tape, and leaving about 4 feet of wire loose, then I seated the fishing pole in the harness, unrolled the counterpoise wires (1 X 16′ and 1 X 32′), passed one through the left corner of the backpack and one through the right corner (to separate the counterpoises somewhat), popped the banana plugs from the counterpoise wires and the helically wound fishing poles into the backpack straps.

Finally I put on warm clothes and my touc and shrugged on the backpack, then checked that the banana plugs were all accessible.  Finally I picked up the clipboard, attached the power plug which was dangling at my knees to the radio, detached the banana plug attached to the counterpoises from one backpack strap and plugged it into the ground side of the BNC adapter, and detached the banana plug attached to the antenna wire from the backpack strap and attached it to the hot side of the BNC adapter, then I put the earbuds in my ears and pulled my touc down to cover my ears.

Ready to hunt me some polar bear.

Ready to hunt me some polar bear.

I checked that the radio would tune on 20m, 30m and 40m then I listened for a quiet frequency on 20m, sent a couple of QRL?, hearing nothing I plugged 14061kHz into my VX-8r APRS status text, shot some video, picked up the clipboard and sent a CQ call arounf 1750Z.

Right away several stations all came back to me and they were all zero-beat with each other!  I picked out Chuck AF4O’s callsign and called him.  Things were a little confusing because my signal was very weak and I kept missing parts of the QSO when other stations were calling me, but I exchanged GRRRs with Chuck who was in Big Hill Pond state park picnic area in Tennessee.  Temperatures in the low to mid 30’s and near calm winds at Chuck’s QTH.  After check, I picked out KI6NN, I wasn’t sure if John was activating a summit in SOCAL (last time we QSO’ed John was up Teutonia Peak (SOTA summit W6/CD-013).  I kept the contact brief because he was zero-beat with Paul W0RW and I found it difficult to pull out details.

After the contact with John, I called Paul W0RW/PM but it was tough going, my signal peaked at 559 with Paul but with heavy QSB.  Paul’s signal was really strong,  he was using a PRC-319 pedestrian mobile and a 10′ whip  in temperatures of 30°F.  He had been tracking my progress on APRS.   It was great to make a /PM to /PM contact with Paul!

I then got a call from Steve WG0AT, he was at 9ooo′ on Mount Herman in the Pike National Forest with his goats Rooster & Peanut.  Got a few extra dits from Steve, maybe that was his teeth chattering, it’s *cold* at 9k feet 😎 …  Steve had a 599+ signal *wow* really strong, my ears were bleeding.  Was that your buddipole, Steve?  What kind of power were you running?  Fantastic!

I popped out a QRZ? and Randy K7TQ was there.  I recalled images of Randy with is sled in FYBO :mrgreen:   We exchanged GRRs then I figured it must be close to 1pm so time to seek out Jim W1PID on 40m.  Oops!  It was a 1817Z I missed the sked (Sorry Jim! 😳 ).  I popped over to 7035kHz and send a QRL and then a CQ call but Jim was not there at that time.

Lots of hills in all directions.

Lots of hills in all directions.

Ken was though.  Blackjack Bear WA8REI was with his Brother Paul in the motor home at Wagon Wheel Hill in Ogemaw County in the middle of the Huron National Forest.  It was 25°F and windy at Ken’s QTH and he had around 3cm of snow.  He gave me a good signal report 589 which surprised me I didn’t think the /PM antenna would do to well on 40m.  40m was really noisy from the nearby electrical equipment, but not too bad.  We exchanged GRRs.

After the QSO with Ken I took a break to eat some spicy samosas and drink some water, then at 1900Z I went back to 20m.  WG0AT was still really strong.  I listened around and didn’t hear any more polar bears, so I settled down to some CQ calls.  After a short while, NK6A came back to me from Southern California with an RST 559 report but the QSB was bad.

I heard a call on the VE2REH repeater, it was Roger VE3NPO.  Roger was keen to join me on the hike but couldn’t make it out this time, maybe next time Roger.  We chatted for around 10 minutes, I had one earbud in and through the earbud I heard my callsign really weak.  It was Darin and Maurice André at the Canada museum of Science and Technology amateur radio exhibit station VE3JW.  So I asked Roger to standby and I walked back out and tried to make contact but I guess they weren’t hearing me at that time.

I completed my QSO with Roger and then I walked around some more, then I got a call from WO5X, another polar bear.  I thought it was John AE5X by mistake and said ‘OK John UR 599′ and that confused things… 😳   But we got back on track and I realized it was  bear I hadn’t worked before, Keith WO5X in Arkansas.  It was 37°F in Arkansas, great WX for polar bears.  Great that’s 2 new bears for me, nuthin better’n’ a new Polar Bear to GRRR to :mrgreen:

After that BSO I got another call from VE3JW.  Stronger this time.  They send fast.  They sent slow.  They tried every trick in the book to make that QSO, and after about 15 minutes I think we did finally exchange all the pertinent details.  Vy FB signal on 20m!!  Must have been groundwave I think.  It was a team effort,  Darin was sending morse and Maurice André was digging the ESP level signal out of the noise.  Thanks for keeping at it guys I am really happy to have completed a simplex contact with VE3JW.

That contact wrapped up a superb polar bear moonlight madness event for me.  I hiked back down the mountain in the fading light of dusk a little sad that it was over.  My wife was watching my track on APRS and I chatted with her on the cellphone at the start of the descent, then Jim VE3XID called me up on the VE2REH repeater towards the end of the hike, and we chatted while I hiked the last part, Jim was following my APRS track as well.

It was so much fun, can’t wait until the next Polar Bear Moonlight Madness.

72 / dit dit de Dittie Bear.

My Log
Date Time Band Mode Callsign Name RST Sent RST Received QTH
5th Dec 2009 1531Z 2m IRLP VE3JW Darin
Maurice André
Ottawa, ON
5th Dec 2009 1631Z 2m IRLP W1PID Jim NH
5th Dec 2009 1754Z 20m CW AF4O/P Chuck 579 569 Big Hill Pond State Park, TN.
.5th Dec 2009 1759Z 20m CW KI6NN John 599 449 Southern California.
5th Dec 2009 1805Z 20m CW W0RW/PM Paul 599 559 Colorado Springs, CO.
5th Dec 2009 1815Z 20m CW WG0AT/P Steve
Rooster & Peanut
599 559 Mt. Herman, CO.
5th Dec 2009 1820Z 20m CW K7TQ Randy 599 579 Moscow, ID.
5th Dec 2009 1825Z 40m CW WA8REI/P Ken 599 589 Wagon Wheel Hill, MI.
5th Dec 2009 1900Z 20m CW NK6A Don 599 559 Southern California.
5th Dec 2009 1910Z 20m CW VE3NPO Roger Ottawa, ON.
5th Dec 2009 1925Z 20m CW WO5X Keith 599 599 Arkansas.
5th Dec 2009 1945Z 20m CW VE3JW Darin
Maurice André
599 599 Ottawa, ON.



7 Responses to “December 2009 Polar Bear Moonlight Madness”

  1. N9SKN says:

    Great scenery Martin and you got a bag full of contacts too!

  2. VE3WMB says:

    Wow .. what a difference one month makes !
    Amazing log .. excellent to work W0RW in a 2 way /PM QSO.

    Next time you need to borrow my little 5 element portable Log Periodic for 2m / 70cm, that probably would have made the difference on the 2m simplex QSO.

    Michael VE3WMB

  3. wo5x, Keith says:

    Good video Martin. Looking forward to the next issue. Thanks.

  4. Kelly K4UPG says:

    Great report! I keep lookin’ fer ya! There’s lots of us newer bears in Florida that are itchin’ fer a BSO.

    Keep up the great work and experimentation. It is good to see how you are doing things. Just wish you would share some mountains with us. Highest point in Florida is 345 feet above sea level… SOTA is a bit out of the question fer da FL bears!

  5. Bob VE3MPG says:

    Great article Martin, I’m a regular reader and like your antenna descriptions and tests.

  6. va3sie says:

    Thanks to all who have left comments on my blog – I really enjoy reading your comments!!

  7. […] in Quebec.  I was up there last August, also in November ’09 (my first ever summit) and December ’09, so I knew what to […]

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