Friday, February 09, 2007

FYBO and PB Feb 2007

Before leaving the home QTH, I was hoping to catch Steve, G4GXL, who had posted his operating schedule earlier in the week. When I saw the solar flux numbers in the low 90’s, I figured there might be a chance on 20m for a QRP QSO around 1600z. I was casually listening for stations when about 16:30z , I heard Steve CQ’ing on 14060. I called him and we made a quick QSO despite the QSB and some QRM on his side. In the clear, Steve was 539 and good copy. It was fun to give our most distant Polar Bear a QSO so now he’s an official part of the Polar Bear “den.”

Friday night we had about 2 to 3” of snow and Saturday started with temps in the low 20’s. Temps dropped during the daytime and the wind picked up from the northwest. The weather report was calling for temps in the teens, and wind gusts of 15 to 25 mph. I was planning to go up to my nearby BearFort firetower which is on a ridgetop and very exposed and therefore windy. I was planning to take a tent for protection from the wind.

The one-lane road into the Firetower parking area was snow covered thereby requiring 4-WD. I parked at the gate and started the 30-min and 400’ elevation climb into site. It was very pretty with the trees snow covered but you could hear the wind in the tree tops so it was “going to be fun” at the top! Fortunately the sun was shining which took the chill off the skin, at least for now. I last was here for the Flight of the Bumblebees QRP contest in July when the temps were in the high 90’s! What a contrast!

In the past, I’ve hung my multi-band dipole off this tower numerous times; in fact, I have a plastic pulley tied to one of the yardarms so I can install one end of the dipole rope once and not have to climb the tower after dark to un-install….I just pull the rope thru the pulley from the ground. The tower climb was very challenging…the wind was gusting to at least 25 mph or higher. The cold temps made each “artic” blast very painful on exposed skin. I finally got the rope installed only to watch my tent start “rolling” down the ridge to a cliff during one of the larger gusts! Oh man!! Here I was at the top of the tower watching this happen in slow motion and helpless to stop it. All I could do was laugh…the timing couldn’t have been better!

So I carefully climb down the tower, walk over to the icy rock cliff edge, apprehensively peer over the cliff.... Yes, there’s my tent, far, far below, somewhat in a tree top! Ok, how am I going to retrieve it? Well, I ended up hiking down the trail and crossing over to the bottom of the cliff and then hiking back to where my tent is about 10’ off the ground in this “kite eating tree” ala the Charlie Brown cartoons. I find a stick and dislocate it, semi-pack it up, head back to the top and start reassembling. The ground is so frozen that tent stakes won’t work; I end up using big rocks to anchor the windward edges.

Now it’s about 3 pm and the temp is around 15-degs as the sun is setting lower. I get the dipole up in the air, connect the coax which creaks with every movement, crawl into the tent, and connect everything up to the K1. My lithium battery is inside my coat to keep it happy. But 40m, my favorite QRP band, is wall-to-wall RTTY stations. I make a quick contact with the Hell guys, N8H, listen a bit for WA8REI who always seems to be everywhere but don’t hear Polar Bear Ken. I tune down to 7020 but it’s jammed with 40-over-9 FOC stations. I tune back and hear Ken! I give him a call, we commiserate on how miserably cold it is before the RTTY guys beat us up. Good contact again with Polar Bear Ken. Ok, now what? I have to get back outside to lower my dipole to switch it over to 30m. Now it’s 4 pm and the temp is now around 12-degs, the winds blowing harder. I make a contact on 30m but the “thrill is gone.” It’s too cold.

Around 5 pm the sunset and the temps seemed to plummet. It was certainly under 10-degs and the wind was still blowing steadily at 15 to 20 mph with gusts much higher. I figure I better get out of here before I lose all light. I quickly packup, stuffing everything into the backpack. Fortunately I’m dressed warmly so any activity kept me very warm. As soon as I got off the ridge, the wind died down and it was kind of pleasant…..for temps around 10-degs!