QRP Poar Bear Moonlight Madness from Foymount

By , April 5, 2010 1:31 am


CQ CQ CQ from Foymount, ON !

A group of us decided to take a drive to the summit of Ryans Mountain at Foymount, the highest populated point in Ontario to operate QRP in the March 2010 Polar Bear Moonlight madness.

The Drive Up

Driving up chatting with VE3SRS

In my previous posting, I described a new antenna design I have been meaning to try for a while, which I am calling ‘The Bear‘.  It took me until 2am on Saturday morning to measure out the wire, attach the banana plugs, pack all the antenna supports, chairs, fill water bottles, etc.  I also had to unpack my winter woolies as the temperature forecast was for only 5ºC but I figured it would feel colder on the summit with wind, so it was tough to get up, grab breakfast and prepare hot chocolate by 7am when Ante VA2BBW stopped by to pick me up.

We wanted to arrive at the summit with plenty of time to set up the station and be on the air for the pot hole round table net which meets at 10am on Sturday mornings on 7.095kHz LSB, just in case we would be able to check in via the NVIS mode.  I fitted my 2m magmount antenna to Ante’s car and we hit the road on schedule.  As we were leaving Ottawa the VE3MPC repeater came alive with the other Foymount ops coordinating their departure. David VE3ZZU was meeting Larry VE3WEH and Bob VA3QV at Tim Hortons to grab lunch sandwiches and coffee, Patrick VA3CMD was waiting at the on ramp to form up into a convoy.

We lost contact with the others as we got out of range of VE3MPC.  We listened on several other repeaters throughout the rest if the journey but we were not successful to re-acquire contact 😥   We stopped in Arnprior to grab a coffee and a sandwich.  We were able to follow David VE3ZZU’s APRS beacon for a while, but eventually we lost contact with David also, around Renfrew.  We did find Roger VE3NPO on the Mount St. Patrick repeater VE3STP.  It was good to chat with Roger for a while.  Roger planned to maintain contact with us throughout the day.

Arrival & Antenna Setup

Tour of Foymount

We arrived at Foymountat 9:30am and had a walk around the site to decide where to set up the antenna.  There are three huge commercial communications towers at Foymount, it was interesting to look at the way they were guyed.  At 9:45am we chose our spot and proceeded to set up the bear (my new antenna).  It’s an inverted-L.  I started by unwinding the 91′ wire and feeding it through the eyeloop at the top of one of the Jackite 31′ poles.  I then raised the pole to its full height, while Ante pulled the wire away from the pole in the direction we wanted to set it up.  The wire got twisted and snagged, I realized that I need to take care not to twist the rod as I am extending it, so I shortened it, untwisted it and raised it up to 31′.  I then walked the far end of the wire out 60′ and hammered the other Jackite pole base into the ground (which is no longer frozen!), attached the end of the wire and extended it to 31′.  It was remarkably easy and quick to get this antenna up, about 10 minutes.  We had to hustle to get the counterpoise wires strung out (16′ & 33′) and unpack a clipboard, the KX1, paddles, speakers, Rite-in-the-Rain notepad, pencil, BNC-to-banana plug adapter and hook up the antenna wires.

As we were setting up the antenna, we got an APRS position from David VE3ZZU.  The others had just left Renfrew after a stop for coffee.  That was the last APRS position I received until they were almost at Foymount.  Digipeater coverage is not the best between Renfrew & Foymount.

Pot Hole Net Attempt

Setting up the Station

We just made it!  We tuned to 7.095kHz LSB right at 10am, and there was someone on frequency.  But it wasn’t the pot hole net, it was South American stations chatting in Spanish.  I had a flashback to 3 years ago when I attempted to do the very same thing from Rideau River provincial park, and all I copied that time also were Spanish speaking amateurs. I guess there is a net on that frequency at that same time in South America.

I did try sending my callsign several times for around 10 minutes but to no avail.  Ernie VE3EJJ was listening on frequency for 10 minutes and calling but Ernie and I did not hear one another.  Larry was also listening & calling on his mobile whip from just West of Renfrew, but we didn’t hear Larry either.  I guess we were too far away from Ottawa (125km) for ground wave, and the antenna & band conditions were not ideal for NVIS.  At 31′ tall the bear it’s not an ideal NVIS antenna!

Hmm, even if I had lowered the antenna from ¼-λ to 1/8-λ it would probably not have helped because ground absorption of my 2W signal would have been increased.  I guess NVIS at the 50km-200km range simply requires more raw power.

DX Attempt

Since the band appeared to be quite long, I tuned down to the bottom of the band and heard a Russian station RU1AW calling CQ.  I popped in my callsign and he came right back with an RST 559 signal report.  Turned out to be Vic(tor) in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Not bad 6,600km with 2W on 40m :mrgreen:

«The Bear appears to be working!»

The Search for SKCC Ops

Ante hooked up his J-37 military key with a homebrew velcro leg strap attachment and started calling CQ on 14.048MHz, looking for Straight Key Century Club ops (Ante is very active in the SKCC).  I spent some time calling on the repeater for the convoy of operators coming up the road from Ottawa, but I didn’t find them.

APRS Spotting

Patrick VA3CMD with his mobile whip

Patrick VA3CMD with his mobile whip

While Ante was operating the transceiver, I was keeping an eye on my APRS stations heard list on my Yaesu VX-8r, and then suddenly around 10:30am VE3ZZU-7 showed up on the heard list < 10km distant.  David and the rest of the convoy had driven up enough elevation into the Opeongo mountain range to be heard by digipeaters again.  At that time, I decided to send two APRS messages.  One to David to let him know we were set up at the summit, and one to ‘QRPSPT‘ with Ante’s frequency 7.048MHz.  The message to David was not acknowledged, I guess he was back out of range of the digipeater, or busy driving.

The message to ‘QRPSPT’ was designed to trigger an experimental APRS↔QRP spotting network gateway that I created.  It’s a server which monitors the APRS tier-2 network for messages sent to ‘QRPSPT’ which contain spotting information (callsign X heard on frequency Y) and forwards the message to a bunch of web services.  A few minutes later my cellphone beeped, I had received the message back from twitter, so I knew that the message had successfully propagated to the web services it was supposed to.

The Convoy Arrives!

At 10:45am I received another position report from David.  The convoy was getting closer!  Under 3km now.  Shortly thereafter, Larry VE3WEH, Gunther the Bear, Bob VA3QV, David VE3ZZU and Patrick VA3CMD all arrived in convoy.

We did a walk around of the site to see where Bob was going to set up his VHF/UHF station, and Larry told us a bit of the history of the site.  Partway through the tour, Ante came over and told us he just made contact with Steve WG0AT (Polar Bear #32).  Steve was stuck “in the den” as a blizzard was sweeping through his QTH.  So there it was we got one bear hide into the sack!  I wonder if Steve saw the spot which I sent over APRS?


Bob operating FT-817 with Hamtenna

Bob operating FT-817 with Hamtenna

Bob VA3QV set up his FT-817 and Z-11 auto-tuner with a hamtenna (similar to a buddi-pole), and was trying to raise operators on 50.125MHz USB.  I sent an APRS spot also to spot Bob on 50.125MHz but my phone never beeped to tell me that the APRS spot had made it into the twitter network.  Upon arriving home and checking the server logs I realize that the script was only checking HF band limits so it rejected the spot 😳   …sorry, Bob.  Well it’s fixed for next time.

Read all about Bob’s adventure here and here.  In summary, there was no 6m opening and there were no stations monitoring 50.125MHz or the VHF SSB calling frequency in ground-wave range.  Bob was able to lift one or two repeaters at good long ranges but signals were not strong enough to have a QSO.  If this had been a SOTA VHF activity day, or an ARRL VHF contest things might have been different.

Patrick set up his FT-817 in the car with a mobile whip and was operating on whatever HF band Ante was not on.  I think David was operating VHF with his ½-λ vertical.  Larry was taking photographs.  Gunther was working DX on Larry’s mobile HF rig.  I was taking photographs, listening in to Bob and Patrick’s radios.

40m NVIS Contact?

Larry VE3WEH with Gunther Bear

Larry VE3WEH with Gunther Bear

I wandered over to the KX1 station and took a turn.  I parked on 20m 14.061MHz for 15 minutes to call CQ.  I spotted myself using APRS and a few minutes later my cellphone beeped with the spot.   But then 10 minutes later my cellphone beeped a 2nd time with a repeat of the message.  What happened?  Well the script which is waiting for an APRS message to ‘QRPSPT‘ cannot send an acknowledgment to the VX-8 because most IGATEs do not gate traffic from APRS-IS to RF, so the VX-8r re-sends the message 5 more times over the next 5 minutes.  Also, digipeaters can store a message for a little while before re-transmitting it.  The script will ignore repeated messages but only for 8 minutes.  In this case it saw the message somewhat delayed and this caused a duplicate spot.  So I made another change to the script to increase the duplicate window to 15 minutes to prevent that from happening again.

With no takers on 20m, I tuned over to the QRP portion of the 40m band and the next station I heard was Pierre VE2PID in Sherbrooke, QC at a distance of 420km.  Pierre is active in the summits on the air program and director for the Estrie region of summits, so I figured he would get a kick out of a contact from the summit of Ryans Mountain at Foymount.  Pierre had a nice strong signal and he was hearing us well enough.  I guess this contact was part NVIS.  Pierre mentioned that it was sunny but cold in Sherbrooke.

Weather Report

It was the same in Foymount, but there was a bit of a wind which was adding some wind chill.  I attached the climate data from Environment Canada for Ottawa.  Foymount was the same or perhaps a little bit colder.  I guess it was around -11ºC (12ºF) at the start (with wind-chill), reached a maximum of around 0ºC (32ºF) with wind-chill around 4pm and then cooled off again before we left at 6pm.

The sun was out though for the 1st hour we were there and then again for the last 4 hours, but I can still see the shake in my video footage from shivering 😎

Weather Report

Dew Point Temp
Rel Hum
Wind Dir
10’s deg
Wind Spd
Stn Press
Wind Chill Weather
09:00 -4.5 -15.7 41 14 17 24.1 101.61 -10 Mainly Clear
10:00 -3.1 -15.4 38 16 15 24.1 101.54 -8 Mostly Cloudy
11:00 -0.7 -14.7 34 15 15 24.1 101.50 -5 Mostly Cloudy
12:00 0.0 -14.3 33 15 9 24.1 101.43 -3 Cloudy
13:00 1.0 -13.8 32 18 11 24.1 101.36 Cloudy
14:00 2.5 -12.7 32 21 17 24.1 101.31 Cloudy
15:00 2.6 -12.3 32 22 9 24.1 101.23 Cloudy
16:00 3.7 -12.5 29 19 9 24.1 101.20 Cloudy
17:00 2.9 -12.5 31 18 13 24.1 101.14 Mostly Cloudy
18:00 2.2 -12.3 33 19 9 24.1 101.13 Mainly Clear

After the contact with Pierre I took a break to eat some lunch and grab some Cocoa Camino hot chocolate with chilli spice – very nice on a cold day!!  Then I got another spot on my cellphone.  Michael VE3WMB was on the air on 40m at 7.0425MHz.  I dashed over to let Ante know, but he was in QSO with Greg, N4KGL in Florida, an SKCC op.

I went to see how Bob was doing.  Bob had given up on VHF due to the lack of activity and moved down to HF.

Contact with the Appalachian Trail Bears

So I went back to do some operating myself.  I tuned over to 7040kHz and started calling CQ.  After about 10 minutes  I was about ready to QSY back up to 40m when I heard ‘GRRRRRRR…‘  I hear me some *BEAR* 😆 so I sent ‘GRRR? de VA3SIE/P PSE K’

QSO with Mark NK8Q

It was Mark NK8Q, Polar Bear #4, one of the founding bears, and from Pulpit Rock on the Appalachian Trail.  Cool!

I hiked up to the Catfish firetower on the AT with Mark in the February 2007 (I think) Polar Bear Moonlight Madness.  It is always a pleasure to find Mark in the PBMME.

Mark was on a South-facing slope 200ft off the Appalachian Trail overlooking a beautiful valley, being overflown by golden eagles, operating his KX1 into a yellow wire antenna 😎   I let Mark know I was using a green, red and brown wire antenna 😉

I passed the key over to Ante to chat with Mark.

After the contact with Mark, we slid back up to the 20m band and there we heard several bears!!  We replied to Kelly K4UPG‘s CQ call and we started exchanging signal reports then another signal popped up zero-beat with Kelly it was Chuck AF4O returning to Ron WB3AAL.  I guess Chuck & Ron were not hearing Kelly.  Oops!  We tuned off-frequency since we were obviously the late-comers on that frequency and called Kelly but never heard us .

Bob had packed up his VHF station, so we took the opportunity to take some group photographs, then the convoy left to drive back to Ottawa leaving Ante and myself up on the summit.  I tuned around a bit on VHF but I was unable to find which repeater they were using.  I did get some APRS position reports from David VE3ZZU-7.

We started calling CQ on 20m and after a short while, we got a call from Milton, NP4KT/QRP in Puerto Rico.  It’s the first time I’ve worked Puerto Rico I think.  It was a short QSO but I was pleased to have Puerto Rico in the log.  Milton was also using a KX1… it’s fun to get a KX1-to-KX1 QSO :-)

QSO with Rem K6BBQ

After Milton, we scanned around the 20m band and I heard the magic ‘CQ PB’ call, it was John N0EVH in Missouri.  John wasn’t hearing our signal very well… so we kept the contact brief.  The next contact was with Rem K6BBQ.  Rem was set up in his tricycle at Morse Cove (North San Francisco Bay), with a buddistick vertical (¼-λ with 4 arms) with four radials sloping down into the bay.  Rems signal into Foymount was good and strong.  Ante passed the key to me halfway through the contact again so we both got to say hello to rem bear, but I don’t think Rem realized what happened, so I got another whole QSO with Rem a little later in the afternoon 😎   It’s an interesting location very close to all that salt water to the East.

We took a break to stretch our legs and I remembered that I had loaded geocaches into my GPS before I left, so I gave then GPS to Ante and we went off in search of a geocache.  Turns out it was very close and in a place we had already been earlier taking photographs with the others.  There were no travel bugs in the cache, so we just signed the log.  Here’s my found log.

We returned to the station and went looking for bears, and we found Chuck AF4O.  Chuck was operating from Chickasaw state park.  His report of the day is here.  The band conditions were pretty good and Chuck had a super strong signal into Foymount.  Both Ante and I took a turn at the key.  Partway through the exchange a PACTOR station started operating right on to of us and destroyed the QSO.  I don’t know why the PACTOR station was so low in the band at 14.061MHz.  The CW ident at the end was sent at 60wpm so I could not copy its callsign or I would have sent a complaint to the operator of that station.  Anyway when the PACTOR station finally quite (I hope it was an important email!) we called Chuck and as luck would have it, Chuck was waiting it out too, so we were able to pick it back up and send some more happy GRRRs Chuck’s way :mrgreen:

It was getting a little bit chilly because the sun was losing its strength so we switched over to 40m and sent CQ for a while.  I was hoping to work Ken WA8REI/P at Wagon Wheel Hill.  Ken usually finds me with one or two CQ calls at most.  Today I sent CQ for 15 minutes and didn’t hear Ken at all.  Turns out there was a reason for that.  Ken had left his tuner at home so he couldn’t get onto 40m.  His report for the day is titled “SCAT”.  😳   But a QRP station did return to our CQ call.  It was Hal, K3ATO/QRP.  Hal was using a KX1 also.

So that wrapped up our day.  We took down the antenna and drove back to Ottawa at 2200Z.  On the way home, we checked into the Champlain mini-net and had a pleasant QSO with Mike VA3TJP who I often hear on the Pot Lid 80m slow speed CW net.

My Log

Date Time Callsign Frequency RST RX RST TX Mode Name Location
27 March 2010 1412Z RU1AW 7.005MHz 559 599 CW Vic St. Petersburg, Russia
27 March 2010 1530Z VE2PID 40m 579 589 CW Pierre Sherbrooke, QC
27 March 2010 1705Z NK8Q* 40m 579 589 CW Mark Pulpit Rock, AT, PA
27 March 2010 1745Z K4UPG* 20m CW Kelly Lake Fredrica, Orlando, FL
27 March 2010 1830Z NP4KT/QRP 20m 539 559 CW Milton Puerto Rico
27 March 2010 1939Z N0EVH* 20m 349 459 CW John Independence, MO
27 March 2010 2000Z K6BBQ* 20m 579 559 CW Rem San Francisco Bay, CA
27 March 2010 2030Z AF4O* 20m 589 589 CW Chuck Chickasaw park, TN
27 March 2010 2045Z K3ATO/QRP 40m 449 589 CW Hal Reading, PA

Ante’s Log

Callsign Name UTC Time QTH RST Sent RST Rcvd PB # QRG (kHz)
WG0AT Steve 15h00 near Denver, CO 559 559 32 14048
N4KGL Greg 16h30 FL 559 559 No PB# SKCC#5123T 14053
NK8Q Mark 17h04-17h25 Pulpit, near Hamburg, PA 589 579 4 7040
K6BBQ/P Rem 18h50 San Rafael, CA 559 539 64 14063
N0EVH John 19h47 MO 559 349 144 14060
AF4O/P Chuck 20h47 Chickasaw Forest, TN 599 569 153 14061


6 Responses to “QRP Poar Bear Moonlight Madness from Foymount”

  1. John N0EVH says:

    VA3SIE Martin,

    What a great team you had up there on the summit. Glad you had some signals stronger than mine for sure. Looks like you had a good time.

    Looking forward to the summer picnics and hearing you all from up north.

    73 John N0EVH 12 squared bear

  2. N9SKN says:

    Nice job documenting a fun outing there guys.

  3. Bill VE3CLQ says:

    Great Blog Martin. I wish I had known you guys were going there, I’d have driven up from Kingston.

  4. va3sie says:

    N0EVH -> Thanks John! We’ll be looking for you in the picnics.

    N9SKN -> Thanks Aaron. Sorry we missed you this time around.

    VE3CLQ -> Oops Bill. I didn’t think to notify you personally, there were some planning mails to the reflector. I’ve added you to the list to call next time (there will be a next time!)

  5. Bob VE3MPG says:

    Great post Martin and a good crew up on the mountain. I was sitting on 50.125 but didn’t hear you guys. Can you add me to the list for your next expedition? I’m getting my portable station together finally.

  6. va3sie says:

    > Can you add me to the list for your next expedition? I’m getting my portable station together finally.

    Yes, Bob. In fact there is another expedition shaping up this coming Saturday:


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