Saturday, July 08, 2006

Mount Washington Portable

I have visitors in from out-of-town this week and it gives me a great excuse to be a tourist in my own area. Boston and the surrounding region is rich with history and wonderful sites to see. Unfortunately, I rarely take the opportunity to soak up all this culture and history unless prompted by visitors. When they come, though, I make the most of it!
My two nieces, now young women, have come to visit their old Uncle Scott and we've been going everywhere and seeing everything we can in the short week they're here. Yesterday we went to the top of Mount Washington, the centerpiece of the Presidential Range in New Hampshire. You can get to the top of this 6288 foot wonder one of two ways: drive up the mountain's access road, or take the Mount Washington Cog Railway, a steam powered locomotive that pushes you up a sinuous line of wood and steel with inclines sometimes greater than 30 degrees. What a ride!
Mount Washington has some of the worst weather in the world as you can see from the Mount Washington Observatory web site. It is cold, windy, sometimes snowy and foggy, and that's on a nice spring day. [grin]
We packed the car early for the roughly 3 hour drive and in my gear (besides warm clothing) was my Elecraft K2 and Buddistick. I was bound and determined to make at least one QSO from the top of the mountain!
The trip up was wonderful and after a quick romp up to the peak for a photograph, I headed off to the observation deck with its long metal rail and flat ground. You can see me huddled and attempting to shelter myself from the wind here:
NE1RD/P on Mount Washington
The Buddistick went together quickly and it only took a few moments with a small antenna analyzer to find a reasonable tap for 20m. I tapped the coil and then allowed the autotuner in the K2 to give me the rest of the match I needed.
The wind was fierce and it was blowing some kind of dust. I found I was closing one eye then the other unconsciously to protect them from the assault. Once I was done setting up everything I sat on the ground hoping for some relief from the wind and called CQ. Nothing. I called again. Still nothing. I'm only running 8-12 watts here so you have to be patient.
I tuned around and found a couple of gentlemen finishing a conversation. When they were done, I squeezed the PTT and called out, "This is November Echo One Radio Delta portable on top of Mount Washington. Can you copy me?" One of those gentlemen came right back. Yes! N4EUQ Dan from Virginia gave me a 55 and then, after a quick QSO, encouraged me to look for others on the frequency.
WB9PMF Tim from Wisconsin worked me next. Again, a 55 signal report--but that's just fine given I've got a small vertical and 8-12 watts out!
The wind had picked up and the Buddistick blew down for about the 10th time. I need to pack a small guying kit for the Buddistick in its bag! It doesn't need to be much. Just a few short lengths of dacron rope would do. Well, I learn something on every trip; this was the lesson for this round.
Tim encouraged me to call out CQ one more time but there were no takers. So, I told Tim I had to pack up and get out of the wind. He wished me 73 and I started packing stuff back into their bags.
I had just two contacts in 20 minutes, but I'm sure had I been able to survive the elements I would have been able to work people all afternoon. It only takes one packet spot for people all over to know you are there.
Again, I always learn something on one of these deployments. That's why I believe they are so crucial for a run-up to a larger far away personal DXpedition. (Oh, and they are tons of fun, too!)
Perhaps I'll talk about fishing poles tomorrow. In the mean time, get out there and do a little portable operation. See what you learn from the experience!


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