Last week, while visiting family in Vancouver, I decided to take a three day trip up the highway to Garibaldi Park and do a bit of ski-mountaineering. There is good camping at Garibaldi Lake, only 9 km in and 850m up from the parking lot. There are also several SOTA qualified summits in the area so I brought my radio, hoping to bag a few first activations in the region at the same time. Despite the distance from major VHF centers, I was able to make four QSOs on the 2m band from both of the summits I climbed. I also brought my HF rig with me, however things did not go quite as planned on the lower bands.
My current HF setup is an FT-817 with a 20m dipole and T1 tuner from Elecraft. On my first objective,
Panorama Peak (VE7/SL-021) I set up the dipole using my avalanche probe and poles to keep it above the snow. I’ve heard that HF propagates through snow, so I could effectively lay it out without the poles and still consider it to be ‘off the ground.’ However, I had the equipment, so I set it up. Coordinating with some local operators in Squamish and Saltspring Island using VHF, we attempted a QSO on 20m SSB. While I could hear both stations quite well I was unreadable by both parties. All the readings from my FT-817 and the T1 tuner were good, low SWR and full power out, but the chasers were hearing only a faint signal. We switched to 80m SSB and had the same result. I reconfigured my antenna as a ¼ wave vertical with a single radial pointed towards the chasers, but this did not improve my signal.
I’m not entirely sure what happened there, but it’s obvious I’ll have to do some more fiddling to get to the point that I can reliably activate summits on HF. It might be the antenna, the band conditions, or even the radio. Results were so bad from the first experiment that I opted to leave the HF gear in my tent the next day when I climbed the Black Tusk, a technical summit a bit further north.
Fortunately I was able to get enough action on 2m from Black Tusk to call it a successful expedition and I headed back to camp to pack up and hike out on the same day, a 15 hour finish to a three day adventure.
For a full trip report (and more pictures) click here: Summits and Radios