QSL N6A via:
Charles ("Larry") Word, W4UAT
The 2007 Crew (left to right)
Left to right: Don, W6OA; Fred, K6DGW; Bill, WB6JJJ; Larry, W4UAT; Jeff, WD6FLG; and Doug, KO6PW.
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How it Went
At 8,500 ft in the Sierra Nevada in early October, betting on the weather is really the same as pulling the handle of a slot machine, and we're not very far from Nevada :-) We have seen a variety of weather conditions over the years ... or at least we thought we had ... 2007 had some new experiences in store for us. Don, Larry, and I arrived on Wed as planned, and it was a bit windy, but OK. By Wednesday night, the 40m groundplane was up and we had a camp. The wind continued to rise, the NOAA weather station on Slide Mt. was telling us "50 mph, gusts to 60, ridge gusts to 75."
This year, we were going to use inverted L's on 80 and 160, and we managed to get them up on Thursday despite the wind. They each comprised a 50' push-up mast and a top wire. Using my MFJ-259B, I sat at the bottom of each and the guys trimmed the top loading wire until we got resonance in the band. Don had built two capacitive reactance tuning units into Sterilite containers at the mast bases to tune out the inductive reactance, and they turned out to be extremely good low band antennas. The coax to the rig was thus pretty much at an SWR of 1:1. The photo shows the 80m Inverted-L, with the 160 in the background, and gives you a peek at the weather we encountered.
The wind kept up full force all day Thursday and Thursday night, and the temperatures hovered in the mid 40's all day. Sometime in the middle of the night, the wind abated, the sky cleared, and the temperature simulated the glide angle of a brick. Depending on which thermometer you checked, the low was in the 10 - 15 degree range. All this time, we were monitoring the barometer using the aircraft altimeter in my truck, and by Friday AM, it was clouding up fast and the mountain had risen some 500 feet since Wednesday (altimeter going up = barometer going down).
We got the tribander up Fri AM, and by noon, it was starting to snow, which began sticking to the ground (and everything else) by 1300. By 1600, we were getting somewhat concerned, however by then, the mountain began sinking some and although it continued to snow a bit until sunset, it was clearing in the southwest.
This was our camp Friday afternoon at about 1630 as the snow was abating (the clock in my camera is set to UTC). All told, we had about 6", a little more in places where it had drifted a little. We all took a few minutes to practice on the rig, and I was very surprised to work a couple of Europeans on 20 meters with one call. We should have simulated QSO's with all 58 multipliers ... yet again, we had a small domain file problem in TR-Log, although this one was much easier to fix than the problem we had in 2006. We noticed after the contest started that working Canadian stations logged them correctly but they didn't dim out in the multiplier display. Around midnight on Sat, I had one of the graveyard shifts and things were fairly slow, so I looked at the domain file and found that the VE provinces were all uppercase ... easy to fix, and after that, they dimmed out as we worked them.
Despite no sunspots and solar flux values in the mid 60's, we did quite well ... nowhere near a record however. The photo is our logging computer about 30 seconds after the end of the contest (looks like the clock in my camera is a tad off). We were hoping that that last SK multiplier was really in the log from a QSO prior to fixing the domain file but alas, when Larry processed the log before submittal, there were no Saskatchewan QSO's. A month or so later, I hand entered several paper logs that had been submitted, and one was from VE5BCS, who made 173 QSO's. That's at least one SK station on the air, why couldn't we find him?
In terms of total QSO's we were down about 79 from last year. This was balanced, in terms of total QSO points because we were more heavily weighted to CW this year. We normally do more CW than phone since CW Q's are worth 3 points and SSB only 2 however, as in every contest strategy, you "work the band and mode that gives you the highest rate."
Unfortunately, my photo of the laptop screen is a little blurred [I'm a point-and-shoot photographer], so the preliminary results are summarized in the table below:
Factoids for 2007
Ian couldn't make it this year, and Arnold had to cancel out at the last minute. John, WB6ETY, did come by on Sunday, but decided to make a dash for home. Our new operator this year was Bill, WB6JJJ. Bill lives in Penn Valley, a few miles west of Grass Valley in the foothills NE of Sacramento.
The Rest of the Weather
With the totally predictable unpredictability of weather at Monitor Pass, Saturday dawned clear and cold, but began to warm fast as soon as the sun came over the horizon (OK, I guess technically, the horizon dipped below the sun). By this time, the mountain was back close to its Wednesday altitude and still sinking and by lunch time, I broke out the shorts and made some Vitamin D.
The snow melted fast, and Sunday was in the upper 60's (maybe low 70's in the sun), clear, and bright. Don had brought his propane space heater which helped a lot in the operations tent at night but even the nightly lows had come markedly up. On Sunday, we did our usual and struck the 40, 80, and 160 meter antennas, cleaned up the camp, and got most everything else packed. At contest end at 1500 PDT, we took the tribander down, packed up the radios and were leaving by about 1615. You can see the total absence of snow in the departure picture.
Our plan was to rebuild our latrine this year ... the winters were taking a toll and we were starting to get splinters in tender places. Well before the weekend, Arnold had found an electrically heated seat which he was going to bring for it. After he had to cancel out, we decided to put the construction project off until next year so he could participate.
As we have been doing each year, we flew a flag that was a gift to us from Marine Ross that he and his Marines had flown over their camp at Al Taqqadum, Iraq on the anniversary date when I accepted a commission in the Regular Air Force from a Marine Captain at a little fire base on the other side of the planet. It is on the tribander mast, and you can just barely see the 160 inverted-L mast at the extreme left.
Despite the weather, it was a great trip. Choosing between some cold with a little snow and gale force winds, I'll take the snow any time! We're not sure what we would have done if the barometer had stayed low or continued to fall and the snow had not abated. We all have 4WD trucks, but at some point, we likely wouldn't have made it out. However, none of that happened. All of the Larry's equipment worked just great, Don was able to make it down from Winlock WA again, Doug and Jeff were able to make it for nearly the entire 5 days, and Bill was a very welcome addition. It's about an ideal size for the crew ... you get enough operating time, but you get to stand up before your butt goes numb and your bladder is overflowing.
My thanks to the rest of the crew, I had a blast, and thanks to everyone for the QSO's and points. Next year, we'll put all the multipliers out on the screen!
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