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Planning multiple peaks in W7M Glacier National Park July 19-24

I’m a first time activator hoping to manage multiple activations as part of a trip to Glacier National Park in Montana. We’re not sure yet what back country permit we’ll be getting or what day hikes we’ll be doing so preparing is a little fraught… I’m casting a reasonably wide net and researching many possibilities.

Equipment is a Yaesu FT-891 (heavy little beast, but what I own), LiFePo battery, 7m fishing rod mast and a 20/40 link dipole. The radio in particular adds significantly to the weight I’m carrying but it’s likely the backpacking will only be a couple of days so at least I won’t be hauling as much food.

I’ll be doing SSB on 20 and 40 since I’m still learning the code… next trip will hopefully let me do some slow CW.

Past experience in Glacier has shown I won’t have any cell phone coverage in the park so any suggested frequencies or recommendations for getting heard are very welcome.

I’ll provide a report on my return, hopefully with many newly activated peaks.

73 de Ben

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Hi Ben, No one else has posted yet, so I will do my best based on my experience of SOTA in the Canadian Rockies, just north of the (US) Glacier National Park.
Initially, for a first-time activator, I think you are being very ambitious, and I would sure recommend getting half-a-dozen one-day activations under your belt locally (Kentucky?) before setting off for a multi-day, multi-summit trip.
The good news is that you have experience of Glacier National Park previously, so you know that this is serious hiking country. My suggestion would be to plan a single day trip with the only objective of the trip to get to the SOTA summit and activate it. This will simplify the whole exercise and make the probability of success much higher.
Regarding selection of a target, my usual plan when activating in an area new to me, is to look at all peaks within a 50 km range of my target, and sort them by the number of activations. If you do this for Glacier National Park, there are only 8 peaks that have been activated and most of those are not in the Park, so there is very little information to draw upon, even for a one-day single target trip. I have no definite suggestions as to what peaks you might attempt.
Regarding spots for activation, my experience is that without a spot it will be pure luck if you have a successful activation. Don’t give up on cell-phones. My experience is that from the very summit of a peak it is often possible to get out an SMS text message to post a spot. Drop down 10’ and the signal disappears. Get registered and make sure you know how to do this. Failing that, digipeters are often available, so it is possible to send an APRS message to APRS2SOTA to post a spot. Again, the signal will probably not be available until the summit ridge.
Good luck on your trip, and please let us know how you fair.

Ian
VE6IXD

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Ian,

I’m definitely aware that this is an ambitious trip but the primary goal isn’t SOTA and the other people along have different goals so I’m having to fit radio in where I can.

Unfortunately life and work has been quite busy recently so I haven’t had an opportunity to get another SOTA trip in beforehand… I have at least gone portable with the setup I’ll be using several times and had good success so hopefully the equipment side of things isn’t an issue.

Cell phone on the summit is excellent advice, I’ll definitely give that a shot! One plus side to the FT-891 is at least I can throw a few extra watts at the problem and hopefully get heard and spotted by someone.

SOTA is definitely a bonus on this trip… I’m optimistic for some activations but if it doesn’t work out I’ll just have to plan a more focused trip later. I never need much convincing to go back to Glacier.

Thanks for the advice… I’m sure I’ll learn quite a bit on the trip one way or the other!

Ben KN4COI

Ben,
Don’t forget to post an alert. These also can be a wide net: choose the earliest likely time, and add S+10 at the beginning of the comments. also post for all the days you’d be likely to be on the air. If your callsign is posted, and any of the monitoring scanners hear you, you will nearly instantly be spotted on the SOTAWATCH 3 page. For the summit, use something like W7M/XX-000
Best, Ken

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S+10 at the beginning of the comments . . . any of the monitoring scanners hear you, you will nearly instantly be spotted

Isn’t this advice for cw activations? Ben will be ssb only.

73 Barry N1EU

Ben:
I will be up there during the same time period for the Glacier-Waterton Hamfest. I am planning to do activations on 7/18 & 7/19. I haven’t decided what yet - but most likely something just south of Hwy-2. You don’t need any permits for day-hikes within the park. I (and the Park Service) recommend that you bring Bear Spray for each person in your party. You can get it at any sporting goods store.

Consider stopping by the Hamfest if you have time. A joint activation on 7/19 would be fun. We (Barb-AE7AQ & myself) will be tent camping in the SE corner of the Glacier Meadows RV park (0.5 miles east of Snowslip on Hwy-2) - anyone in that corner will know us. Bill-N7MSI & Bob-K7HLN will be in that area also. I will likely be driving a grey-green 2019 RAV4. I have climbing books & other information on summits in the area & will be there during the evenings of 7/17-7/19, all day on 7/20, and in the morning of 7/21.

I’ll hope to see you if it works out - otherwise - you can’t help but to have a great time as it is a beautiful area.

73,
Rob - AE7AP

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Ben:
One summit to consider is W7M/FN-110 (Elk Mountain). You will have an entire Hamfest at your feet from 7/19-7/21 (am) & would be able to make lots of 2m QSO’s. It is also a very nice (non-crowded) hike on a great trail with rewarding views. I highly recommend it. It would be very (as in very, very, very) easy to convince me to do that with you - or to do something nearby for S2S action!

73,
Rob - AE7AP

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Rob,

I was unaware there was a Hamfest in the area! I’ll have to see if I can agitate any interest in the group for going… I may get outvoted. :slight_smile:

True about the permits for day hikes… we’re hoping to get several days of backpacking but our current permit is for one night only and past experience has shown that Glacier permits are very fluid so we won’t know what we get until we’re there.

We’re likely going to be a little north in the St. Mary or Many Glacier areas but I’ll do my best to keep you up to date if I can come down toward the RV park or the Hamfest or if we can arrange a S2S. Elk Mountain looks like a really nice climb and a good location.

And definitely agreed… activation or not, back country or day hikes, I’ll never complain about a day in Glacier.

73,
Ben - KN4COI

Better is to post for the end of the period with S-10 in case you drop out the alerts list due to alert age

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Barry,
Whoops! right you are. That said, a lot of newbies are trying their hand at between 5 and 10 WPM. So the odds of getting spotted is an added incentive to do CW. (the added 20+ dB of power in a narrower bandwidth doesn’t hurt a thing, either)

Ken

Barry & Ken,

Thanks for the information and clarification.

I’m working on CW… just not ready for it on this trip! I’ll have to take my chances with SSB.

73,
Ben KN4COI

Ben,

Saw your post earlier today right before heading out to work. Was gonna to mention to get ahold of Rob, AE7AP, but I see he has already replied here. I did Glacier back in 2016 as a little vacation for my wife and I and to do some activations for the NPOTA event. I too hadn’t realized there was a hamfest in the area at the time. I found out by a chance 2M QSO with Rob while he was activating, and I was shopping at the Costco near the park (forgot the name of the town). Rob invited us to meet up at the hamfest and we ended up staying with his group for a couple of days. Great bunch of guys! Time well spent and on Rob’s advice, I along with Bruce N7RR, activated Elk Mtn in the south end of the park. Awesome hike and stunning views! I submitted a picture at the time of me on Elk Mtn to QST hoping at would make the magazine for the NPOTA monthly news article. Much to my surprise, ARRL sent me a free calendar and I was “Mr. November” as my coharts here in Northern CA liked to say. If I recall correctly this hamfest is the oldest running hamfest in the US and Canada. Nice event and the BYO Steak cookoff was excellent. Hook up with Rob’s group if you can. You won’t be disappointed. Wish I had the time off to attend their event every year. Awesome Nat’l Park too :wink:

73, Todd KH2TJ

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Oh by the way - I don’t remember if cell svc was working up there - but I do remember we used APRS to spot ourselves - and 2M simplex to a whole bunch of ops down at the hamfest…

Todd KH2TJ

Ben, Todd:
That was a fun year! I worked Todd-KH2TJ from W7M/FN-154 (Loneman Mtn.) while he was in Kalispell. Loneman is another great hike - although it is more adventurous than most in that you have to cross the Middle Fork of the Flathead & Nyack Creek. We got down late & were pretty bushed - there was the future Mr. November (Todd) and his wife with a nice tent, table, checkered tablecloth, etc. He knows how to camp in style! The hamfest officially begins mid-day on Friday. The various talks (also crafts, bingo, etc.) are on Saturday & the Potluck BBQ is Saturday evening. Sunday morning is breakfast, the traditional junk auction (very entertaining!) & prizes. It is done by mid-morning. There is also a varying group of musically inclined Hams & spouses that put on evening hootenannys. There is lots of room for kids & family (swings, grassy field, etc.), and a nice shower-bathhouse so that we don’t all get too rugged. I went for the first time in 2013 & haven’t missed one since. I hope that you can stop by.

73,
Rob - AE7AP

Ooh. One of my favorite parks. Good luck. Ssb without cell service can be a real trick. But you don’t have to contact Sota folks for it to count. If there is a qso party contacts will come easy but getting Sota chasers will probably prove difficult. CW is long for this and other reasons.

Take your cell. If you can get out an sms spot your world will open. It is not uncommon that I have no data in my area but can eke our a text. Don’t discount 2 meter depending on location. Good luck.

I visited Glacier NP last year as part of a group nature study and hiking week at the Glacier Institute. The schedule did not allow for any activations, my bad luck. But I did stop in Apgar ranger station one afternoon to research for a possible future trip. The rangers I spoke with were completely unaware of SOTA, so I hope I left a good first impression. From them I learned that many peaks in the park do not have "official " summit trails, and in some cases that is because the rock isn’t stable. Based on my conversations, you might consider going to the West Glacier visitors center or the ranger station, explain what you hope to do, and ask for suggestions. Have your own map handy to make notes and highlight trails. They may ask you what equipment you have and what your experience is, so they can make appropriate suggestions. Depending on conditions, some trails may be closed due to late snow melt (it happened to us), and the rangers will know the situation.

Finally, you probably are aware that Glacier is well known for its population of grizzly bears. A concessionaire in the park does a thriving business renting bear spray canisters, and as I recall the cost was such that 2 or 3 days rental cost was equivalent to the cost of buying your own canister - the Kalispell Walmart seemed to have one of the best prices I saw, but the canisters can be bought at just about any outfitter. If you do buy, be aware that you can’t take it on an airplane if you fly home.

I can’t advise you on whether to buy one, but if you are venturing out on the trails and in the backcountry please do learn how to manage a meeting with a grizzly, and if you carry a canister, learn how to use it properly. For the record, in 6 days of day hiking from car accessible trailheads (no remote backpacking) we encountered black bears 3 times and grizzly once - but the grizzly was a sow with 2 cubs, coming down our trail. We turned around and retreated to a side trail until they went back off the trail. Our naturalist guides carried bear spray but we fortunately didn’t have to use it in any of our encounters. Always best to avoid confrontation.

Have a great trip!
73
Scott WB8ICQ

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My apologies, rereading your original post I now see that you apparently have prior experience in Glacier. In that case you may already know much of what I posted. Maybe the information will be useful to others who are inspired by your plans and want to try Glacier themselves.
73
Scott

One more thing: on our trip to Glacier NP last year, I did find cell service on some high points and overlooks, so it won’t hurt to try. One other resource is the system for spotting via SMS, which may work in areas where cell service is marginal.

Ben:
Sorry that we weren’t able to meet up - I hope your trip is going well & that you will post a summary of your adventure! We had a great time at the Glacier-Waterton Hamfest. We activated W7M/FS-200 (Mt. Furlong) on a very wet Day-1 via the scenic Tranquil Basin (Edna Creek) trail & had to cut the activation short due to hail & thunder. On the 2nd day, we activated W7M/FS-076 (Devils Hump) after a long approach and a goodly bushwack. We again had to cut this activation short due to adverse Wx, but not before some exciting QSO’s, including a “Summit-2-Bicycle” with Halden-NR7V, who traveled to the Glacier-Waterton Hamfest from Vancouver, B.C. via boat, Subway-El, bus, train, and finally bicycle! We very much enjoyed visiting with Halden & hope to see him again. We were also able to work many other friends at the Hamfest from both summits. There were so many memorable hamfest moments, including frosty mornings, old & new friends, and also the raucous 2nd annual wine-cheese-bingo night (which was, of course, held outdoors in the pavilion with everyone bundled in down coats & warm hats). As you can see from the final photo – the Rocky Mountain Front lives up to its windy reputation – even the bears aren’t immune!

73,
Rob – AE7AP

Up Furlong


Further up Furlong

Furlong QTH

Down Furlong

Up Devils Hump

Tranquil Basin

Valley with Hamfest

Leaving Devil’s Hump in Snow/Hail

Too windy for bears

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Thanks for all the replies and sorry for the silence on my side. The trip turned out to be very busy and with limited internet so I wasn’t able to keep up here.

The tl;dr is that I wasn’t able to activate any of the SOTA peaks I was hoping for, with a wide variety of failures:

  • Areas closed for wildlife, e.g. Altyn Peak, which would have been a somewhat “easy” activation otherwise… grading on the Glacier scale
  • Backpacking permit was far too ambitious and mileage heavy to consider adding a mountain climb at the end of the day.
  • Wx, as Rob noted above… I suspect we all got caught in the same (un-forecast) hailstorm along with some very hot days later in the week.
  • Overall extremely ambitious plan, as Ian noted in his reply.

That being said, I learned a few things that I’ll document here:

  • SOTA is hard to tack on to a trip, particularly a backpacking trip and even more so in an area as challenging as Glacier can be.
  • I pre-cleared the activation attempts explicitly with the park rangers when we were discussing back country permits with them. Wound up speaking with the head ranger on the phone… his approach was as might be expected: be respectful of others, don’t damage the park and there is no problem.
  • Pick an easier association to use for your first activations… a 6 pointer in W7M is way harder than a 10 pointer in W4K. :slight_smile:
  • Obviously, safety first… rain, hail or 60+mph wind gusts trump radio. (Obvious, but here for any first timers)
  • TSA didn’t give me any particular trouble with my radio gear in a carry on, but I had sent some things like tent stakes and mast along with the part of the party that drove to Glacier just to simplify the conversation.
  • APRS worked in several places where cell signal did not reach, including the hike up to Grenell Glacier https://aprs.fi/#!mt=roadmap&z=13&ts=1563580800&te=1563667200&call=a%2FKN4COI-7 Have multiple ways to spot yourself (SMS, APRS, Internet), if possible… one may go through.

So overall I can’t complain about my own failure to activate… a week in Glacier still beats a week just about anywhere else but next time I’ll make sure there is a day or two set aside for SOTA. Hopefully with more predictable weather.

The other activations look awesome, I’m sorry I wasn’t able to be a part of them!

Next attempt will be a much less ambitious VHF only trip in the SF Bay Area in the neat future… I’m hoping to get a day hike up to Mount Diablo’s two peaks, both of which have been activated many times.

73, Ben KN4COI

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