Thanks to all the chasers for persevering yesterday on HB/VS-052, Pigne d’Arollla. Especially Lars for the Spot.
Conditions were testing! We had stayed overnight in the Cabane des Vignettes, a fantastic situation and worth a google on it’s own! Apparently originally a military building in WW2.
There has been no fresh snow for weeks and the snow that remains is hard and icy. We used ski mountaineering equipment but had to resort to boot crampons, ice axes and carrying the skis on our backs at one point. There was also a freshening wind of 35 ~ 40KPH so the wind chill was noticeable. By the time we reached the summit we were wearing every spare piece of clothing. There was no shelter so using a snow shovel (carried in case of avalanche burial) we dug a pit 1 by 3 metres and about 1.5 meters deep, with a snow bench to sit on. We had a Terra Nova Bothy 4 survival shelter over the top and could sit out of the direct wind.
I used a 3.2 metre long avalanche probe (also carried in case of avalanche burial) to hold the centre of an inverted-V 14MHz resonant dipole and, after attaching the battery carried inside my duvet jacket, started calling SSB on my FT817. The KX2 is not robust enough for high altitude activations! The 817 has VHF if all else fails!
My first Spot went out OK, but then I noticed the SWR was off the scale. A prolonged F-word moment followed! Unsurprisingly I was travelling light and had no spare gear.
Getting my small ski multi-tool from the top of my rucksack, I had to leave the (relative) warmth of the bothy shelter, back out into the full force of the wind and take down the antenna, then try to reattach a broken wire, all while wearing dachstein mitts. To relieve tension on the successfully attached wire a couple of small cable ties were needed, with mitts not a good combination. That would have to do. Back under the shelter and the (now non-resonant) antenna worked OK. Lars was able to hear me but a nearby station started and spattered over my working frequency. We went up to 14.288MHz, I relaxed after the 4th QSO, and the rest is history; Thanks Lars.
By now I was roasting hot from my adrenaline tsunami (fingers excepted) but my companions were not so lucky and after 17 QSOs, the first gap in the pile-up, I had to stop. We had skied up together for safety in numbers and now I had to get everyone back down safely before hypothermia started.
The ski down was horrendous on icy, rutted snow, with higher wind chill than the ascent. Surprisingly we did find some untracked snow with good skiing but after a few turns I realised there was a deep crevasse just below and a long traverse west was required to get close to the safe uphill track.
Clearly we got down safely.
Morale of the tale? Try to make sure your gear is serviceable in the field!