I would have to say that it was very recently that I learned about the
Adventure Radio Society. I was scanning the pages of QST looking for operating
events when I came across The Flight of the Bumblebees.
Having built an Elecraft K1 last winter, and being an avid outdoorsman
on many different levels, it sounded right up my alley. I kept it in the
back of my mind until the night before when I learned I needed to
register and get a number for the event.
Unfortunately for me I had not registered in time but my e-mail to Richard
Fisher, KI6SN, got me a nice reply and my own membership in ARS after
returning from a week long boat camping trip on Lake Umbagog in Maine.
A visit to the ARS website gave me a lot to think about. Operating events
that sounded fun, a group of people with similar interest, a wealth of
information, and, oh yes, The Top of the World! I must preface this by
saying that I enjoy many different outdoor activities but, over the years,
hiking has certainly been my favorite.
The chance to be recognized and help the club for doing two of my favorite
things was an opportunity not to be missed. With this in mind, I set my
sights on HF QRP from the summit of Mt. Mansfield, the highest peak in
Although I had been there many times before, I had never brought any sort
of radio. My goal was clear: to activate the summit!
August 8, 2002 dawned foggy and gray as I jumped in the pick-up and drove
an hour north to the trailhead. The forecast was for excellent weather,
clear skies, dry air, and the kind of puffy cloud blue sky New
England day that every hiker wants to spend above treeline.
I knew that the clouds would lift and I would be blessed with some awesome
views from the top. I left the trailhead shortly before 7am and headed
up the Sunset Ridge trail; a 3.3 mile hike which gains about 2,000 vertical
feet before attaining the summit. The trail has a consistent grade. It
follows a ridge that comes down from the summit on the Northwest side
of the mountain.
For the most part, the hike was un-eventful. I hiked through the deciduous
forest below and quickly crossed through the boreal zone to break treeline.
The nicest thing about the trail I had chosen was that it was exposed
for more than half the hike giving great views of the Adirondack Mountains
to the west.
I didn't see anything, however, because the clouds continued to veil the
mountain. With no kids, dogs, or anyone else that required my attention,
I reached the summit shortly before 9 a.m., just as the sun was beginning
to break through.
I snapped a few pictures with my digicam and then set to the work of putting
Mt. Mansfield on the air! I found a spot several yards from the summit
that would allow me to set up an antenna.
As mentioned earlier, I brought my K1. I was powering the rig with eight
AA NiMH batteries inserted into the battery pack option that I had added
shortly after I built the rig. I had also added the built in auto tuner
option so my station was complete. The only other accessories I brought
were headphones and my Palm Mini Paddle. My antenna was a run of 66 feet
of wire with a counterpoise of roughly 25 feet (I ran out of wire before
I could make it any longer!).
I hung about 60 feet between a rock ledge and a small scrub fir tree allowing
six extra feet to connect to the rig. This put the antenna about twelve
feet above a rather wet piece of ground. Then I ran the counterpoise along
The set up was complete. The temperature had reached roughly 45 degrees
by this time so I put on some warmer clothes and got ready to go on the
I fired up the rig, let the antenna tuner do its thing and began to listen.
My concern about possible interference from broadcast antennas mounted
a mile down the ridge was unrealized, as I heard nothing but
clear air and several signals.
I heard one station in the Philippines, several in Europe, and a number
of stateside stations. I tried for awhile to make contact on 20 meters
with anyone by tailending and calling CQ (sparingly so I would not waste
my batteries) but to no avail.
At the same time I was doing this, the clouds were breaking up providing
amazing views of the mountains to the east south and west with incredible
It was an absolutely gorgeous place to be at that moment! I am sure I
would have been a sight to see as I was alternately listening to the rig
and running around snapping pictures with my camera. Fortunately, I was
alone on the summit, which is the way I like it (I'm big into the wilderness
experience thing and don't like to have mine interrupted!).
I went back to the rig and settled down a bit and listened around on 40
meters as 20 didn't seem to be working for me at the moment despite the
fact that I had 1:1 SWR on 20 and 2.7:1 on 40. I came across two stations
ending a QSO and waited.
At 1349Z I called N2APQ who returned my call immediately. Robert was located
in Sidney, NY and seemed impressed when I told him where I was, what my
station consisted of, and that I was running three watts. He gave me a
569 report! He was solid 599, which made for easy copy. We chatted for
about 15 minutes and finally signed. Robert had to go pick some beans
in his garden and I wanted to do some more sight seeing above treeline.
By this time a few people had started to show up on the summit. As Mt.
Mansfield isn't really that difficult of a hike, I knew it wouldn't be
long before the hoards of summer day hikers arrived. I had been on the
summit for almost two hours and hadn't seen a soul, which is no easy feat
on a popular New England peak in August!
I packed up my radio gear and looked back on my chosen operating spot.
There was nothing that would indicate to anyone what I had done that morning;
an idea that appealed to me. The mountain is ever indifferent to our presence
but we gain so much by going there!
Before heading down to the valley, I hiked a mile south on the exposed
ridge enjoying the ever-changing views as the clouds lifted through the
morning sky. When I reached the limit of the tundra, I turned around and
I stopped for lunch at my operating site and savored the memory of the
morning's activity. Then, I headed back down Sunset Ridge to my truck,
a dip in the river, and a cold beverage to celebrate my day!
My thanks to Robert, N2APQ, with whom I shared a very enjoyable QSO. Also
to the Adventure Radio Society who sparked my interest in HF QRP mountain
topping! Maybe before the snow flies, I can put another summit on the
is me at the true summit with my rig and, of course, identification!
includes the benchmark at the summit.
shows the view south down the ridge of Mt. Mansfield. New England states
seem good at loading their highest summits with broadcast antennae so
that is what you see on the lesser summit of the mountain.
shows my rig and the antenna strung up. You can barely see the wire extend
to the small ledge across the grassy area.
To see Mount Mansfield on the web, visit:
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Alan Kamman, W1SA, is an outdoorsman and low power enthusiast living in