Last weekend was the ARRL January VHF Sweepstakes, one of the more popular VHF contests. If you haven’t worked a VHF contest, take a look at the basic tutorial on my web site. To me, a VHF contest is really a VHF Activity Weekend as it attracts and concentrates a lot of VHF activity.
For the fourth year in a row, the weather looked pretty reasonable here in snowy Colorado, so I did the Backpack QRP Portable Operation on Mount Herman (about 9000 feet elevation, grid DM79mb). The trail up the mountain is not all that difficult, maybe 1.2 miles distance and 1000 feet in elevation gain. The road to the trailhead is not maintained, so it is usually snow covered in winter and requires 4WD. The last few years there has been little snow in early January and the main obstacle on the trail was a few patches of ice.
This year was different as a recent snow storm dropped about 6 inches of fresh snow on the road and on the trail. No worries, we made sure we had the right gear (boots, Yak Tracks, ski poles, etc.) to slog it up the trail. My wife Joyce KAØDEH hiked up the trail with me, taking our time and enjoying the journey. We were the only people on the trail and we noticed quite a few animal tracks. A deer we called bambi came walking by and gave us a look. It was a very pristine backcountry experience, as the snow makes everything clean and quiet.
Oh, back to the contest. We made the summit a little after noon, ate a quick lunch and set up the QRP station. My main rig was the Yaesu FT-817, a great little HF through UHF portable QRP rig. For 6 Meters, I used my trusty old dipole, strung between two conveniently-located pine trees. For 2 Meters, I used a new SOTA beam which is available from the UK. The name SOTA refers to the Summits on the Air awards program that originated in the UK. This beam is amazingly light in weight and it is easy to assemble. I will be doing an article about this antenna in a future issue of QRP Quarterly. For 70 cm, I just used a vertical BNC-style antenna, nothing fancy. I also brought along a 222 MHz FM handheld rig with rubber duck antenna and made a handful of contacts on it.
My results for the contest are 52 QSOs, 72 QSO points, 8 multipliers and a score of 576. This is not all that great but it would have scored 6th in the nation in last year’s contest. A closer look at the 2005 results shows that I scored 864 from the same location and similar operating time last year.
2005 Contest Results (QRP):
KA1LMR 23,058; W6DWI 8,208; N8XA 4,200; KG6EE 2,486; KØNR 864; KA1VEC 585 (NM1K,op); NØHJZ 464; WB2AMU 396; KI7T 198; KØSM 16
So we see that last year, a 16 point score netted 10th place….uh, that was probably only a handful of contacts. We definitely could use some more activity in the QRP (I mean, Single Op Portable) category. In the mean time, I’ll be out hiking to my favorite mountaintop and playing with radios.
73, Bob K0NR