K0NR – ARRL January VHF Sweepstakes


For the last four years, I have operated a backpack portable QRP station in the ARRL January VHF Sweepstakes. I am not sure how I got hooked on this but the basic idea is to hike up to the summit of Mt Herman (~9000 feet in elevation, grid locator DM79mb) and operate for the afternoon. The contest goes all weekend but I am not signed up for a mountaintop camp out in January. So for me this contest becomes a hike-the-mountain-then-make-some-contacts event.

The first three years, the weather was amazingly good. It was so sunny and warm that I worried about sunscreen more than about having sufficient clothing. Last year, we had serious snow on the trail but it was still a reasonable hike. See my ARRL Soapbox comments here.

But Colorado has experienced record snow fall this year….and it is not melting any time soon. When I woke up on the morning of the contest, it was once again snowing at my house. My good sense said “Bob, you are not going up the mountain today.” The other part of my brain (the one that likes a good challenge), said “This has now reached the status of Official Challenge to be Overcome.”

My wife Joyce (K0JJW) and I loaded up The Big SUV and headed to the trailhead. A US Forest Service road that is not maintained (read: not plowed) in the winter is the only way to get to the trailhead. We carefully drove up the road and got within 1/4 mile of the trailhead. The road was blocked by various vehicles that had gotten stuck. We found a place to park that did not block the road, grabbed the snowshoes and started our climb.

We slogged our way up the trail through heavy snow and eventually arrived at the summit. It was not that bad of a climb, but the snowshoes were essential and the deep snow slowed us down. We arrived at the summit around 1 PM, one hour after the contest started.

At the top, I had about 25 QSOs before the cold started to get to me. It was difficult to operate the radio in the snowy conditions….and it was pretty dang cold. I did not bother to assemble the 2M yagi antenna, operating just off the vertical whip antennas. At first, I thought I was going to just work my own grid (bummer). As the afternoon progressed, I picked up 4 adjacent grids on various bands, so I was feeling OK about that. (Not rare DX but at least I got outside my grid.)

More information on VHF contests can be found here: How to Work a VHF Contest

73, Bob K0NR

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