Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Blue Mountain Adirondacks Adventure!

My winter hiking friend, Joel Miller (W2TQ) and I have hiked into several "vista" locations, primarily firetower sites, in the Adirondacks these past few months. Part of the "fun" is to get out in the winter and experience popular summer hiking sites during snowy winter conditions. Secondly, it is an opportunity to improve cold, winter camping skills and test equipment in harsh or challenging weather. Blue Mtn at 3,760' and located in the central Adirondacks and the firetower atop the peak provided for great vistas in all directions. Blue Mtn receives around 15,000 visitors in the summer months and is a popular snowshoe site in the winter. Part of my fun is to hang a dipole off the Firetower and operate QRP with my trusty K1. And to make our campout even more interesting, a large Nor'easter was headed our way so we were expecting some "challenging" weather!

We started the 1500' elevation gain climb Friday about 12:30. The sun was out and the temps were in the low 30's. Nice! The Nor'easter was already raging through the Ohio valley with record snowfalls and temps in the single digits. We were on the "warm" side of the low pressure but the A'dacks create their own weather. So we were anticipating snow, sleet, freezing rain and maybe even high winds. I had my trusty N7UN sled with the new brackets for using my ski poles as "arms" to steer, lift, and guide the sled particularily on downhills. Joel, W2TQ, was using his new sled for the first time.

The climb to the top was uneventful. If we stayed on the snowshoe-packed trail, the two feet of snow was not problematic. If you stepped off the trail, you postholed a couple of feet. It's a 2 mile climb to the top of Blue Mtn and the Blue Mtn Firetower. The top area had a couple of feet of crusty snow, was fairly open, and the firetower somewhat ice-crusted over. And it was just in time 'cause you could see the dark clouds out of the south heading our way! With tents up, my multiband antenna up, we battened down the hatches as it began to snow. I had hoped to be on 20m for an hour or so to make a contact with N0TU. I made two contacts on 20m before a heavy pulse-noise interference overloaded the K1 AGC and drove me to 40m. But this required a very quick change of the multiband dipole in the now heavier snow storm. A few minutes later, I was tuning on 40 which was challenging since a 1/4 of the dipole was laying across nearby trees about 15' off the ground. But the K1 tuned up with a 1.6 swr and 4 watts out. 40 mtrs was hot! I had a nice chat with Ken WA8REI who had a strong signal with me. I was on 40m from 6pm to 7pm and worked a lot of folks but no other Polar Bears.
It was snowing hard now and in an hour or so we had 2"...looked like a foot or more by morning if this snowfall rate kept up. But around midnight it started to sleet followed by freezing rain for a while then quiet and calm from 2am on. By morning, we had about 6" of new snow and an inch of ice on my dipole and temps around the high 20's! I shook the coax and knocked some ice off but not much. Fortunately the trusty K1 tuned up ok which amazed me with the inch of ice on the dipole wires. I made some fun contacts in the midwest with folks getting a lot of snow and bitterly cold temps, e.g. -5 f. in Wisconsin! The Nor'easter was heading our way but not forecasted to hit until later that Saturday nite. Fortunately we were hiking down that day and would miss the worst of the weather and the forecasted 50-60 mph winds, heavy icing and then a significant snowfall.
We had breakfast (love my gourmet roasted oats, christened with sweet spices...ok, ok, oatmeal!) and then started to pack up. The forecast was for freezing rain or just rain until a change over to all snow later Sat. evening as this fairly powerful Nor'easter moved up the Ohio valley. And just in time because it started to rain! With temps now in the low 30's the rain was cold but our activity kept us warm.

We got back down the mountain quickly, loaded up the gear in the pickup, had a great lunch at a local resturant and then started our 4 hr trip back to NJ. Wow, did it ever rain hard almost the whole trip back. Flooding for sure for northern NJ and SE NY. So it was a grand adventure not only to QRP operate from a new location but to experience some "challenging" weather. And it proves that with relatively simple QRP equipment and an antenna "in the trees" you can effectively communicate, even in the worst of conditions.

Guy, N7UN/2
RainMan, PB#15

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