I've been a ham three-fourths of my life and have moved numerous times for various reasons. #At least a few of the moves were simply to achieve a better station location for ham radio! # In all cases, my family (XYL + kids) were always part of the decision and we've enormously enjoyed the relocations.
In between houses, or at times when my home station wasn't adequate to achieve what I wanted to do with the hobby, I've done a lot of portable work. #In some extreme cases, this involved backpacking 70 lbs of gear, batteries, antennas, masts, food and shelter up the side of a steep mountain. #Some would call that totally crazy, but I viewed it as good exercise and every outing was an experience to remember.
In the mid-1980's, the ARRL introduced a new category for VHF contest operations (QRP) and my friend Pete KT2B and I thought it would be fun to try it out. #We chose a suitable operating location, the highest point in New York's Catskill Mountains (Slide Mountain, at 4204' above sea level, and line-of-sight to the NYC metro area).
That's a good location. #Unfortunately, the only way to get there is to hike in, since no road comes anywhere near the summit.
We chose the June VHF QSO Party for the event, and packed portable VHF-UHF QRP gear including rigs running 5W output on all the popular bands, SSB and CW. #Those rigs don't do much without antennas, so we broke down high-performance Yagis into suitable packing size (nothing more than about 3' long). #The Yagis won't work unless they're elevated above the ground, so we broke down portable aluminum masts, enough to make a few 10' high antenna supports for use on the mountain. #The rigs need power, so we packed 14AH gel-cells. #We also need microphones and electronic keyers, and coaxial cable, and guy rope, and bungee cords...
...and logbooks, and pens, and maps. #And Swiss Army knives, and matches, and flashlights. #And food and water, and some sort of shelter against the freezing night weather. #And maybe some protection against the rain...
This small outing became more of an adventure as we tried to pack a weekend's worth of contest supplies as well as normal living supplies into two backpacks, attempting to keep the weight of each down to 70 lbs to make for reasonable uphill hiking.
The packs ended up at 85 lbs each, that was as light as we could make them and still have everything we needed. #I weighed 150 lbs at the time, so my pack weight was almost 60% of my body weight, not a recommended ratio for a long uphill climb, but what the heck.
The climb was difficult, but we made it in a few hours (it's a 2600' uphill, since the base parking lot is at only 1600' and were met by a spectacular view, and to our delight and disgust, a running clear water spring with plenty of fresh drinking water -- right at the top of the mountain. #Who would've guessed? #Delight, because fresh water at a camp site is the best thing ever, and disgust, because we each carried about 10 lbs of water with us, which it turns out we really didn't need. #A half gallon canteen full for the climb up would have been sufficient.
Operations went smoothly, and as it turns out, we won the contest for our category. #A photo of me operating our QRP portable mountaintop station accompanies this article.
Enjoyable? #Absolutely. #Great experience? #Of course. #Recommend it to anyone in good health? #For sure!
If you find yourself longing to compete in a contest, or work DX, or just do anything out of the ordinary that you cannot easily achieve from your home station, take it portable! #And let us know what you did, and how you did it, so others can gain from your experience.
73 & happy portable'ing!
A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.
-- George Bernard Shaw
Steve, quit posting on company time.
As I read your story I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop... you know.."but we forgot the connectors for the power cables", or "we forgot to charge the batteries" ... etc...
Sounds like a hoot... good story... Thanks
Mt. Shasta California, August 1999 hiked up to the 11,000 ft level with a handheld, 2 extra batteries and a ladder line j-pole antenae worked as far south as Mexico and as far west as Colorado. It was a blast. Your trip sounds better but I didn't feel like hauling all that gear and was actually just going up because it was there.