Monday, September 12, 2011

September VHF Contest

This year marked a return to Brokeoff Mountain in Lassen National Park for the annual ARRL September VHF Contest!

Lassen National Park is in grid square CN90, which is relatively rare for ham radio operators in the San Francisco Bay area. The grid square is at the north end of the California central valley, and the peaks in Lassen Park have great radio "views" over much of the valley and also into southern Oregon.

The trail to Lassen Peak (10,600') was closed for repair work, so we hiked to the summit of Brokeoff Mountain (9,200') instead.

The trailhead up Brokeoff begins just at the southern border of the National Park, and climbs 2600 vertical feet over 2 miles. It took Melanie and I just about three hours to hike it. Weather conditions were near perfect cool temperatures and light winds.

Once at the summit, I set up my standard portable VHF radio gear. This consisted of a Yaesu FT-817ND all-mode transceiver, an Elk dual-band log periodic antenna for 2 meters and 70cm, an M2 HO-Loop antenna for 6 meters, all powered by a K2 Energy LiFePO4 battery pack and 2x20 watt PowerFilm solar panels.

I spent a total of three hours with the contest on the summit. I worked a few stations in southern Oregon, and quite a few stations in northern California. One ham had driven to the top of nearby Burney Mountain (about 30 miles away) and could literally see my operating position! I made around 50 contacts, and worked nine different grid squares. It was a lot of fun!

The portable equipment worked well. With over nine thousand feet of antenna height, the 5-watt radio was just about enough to work all of the stations that I could hear. The Elk antenna had enough gain to hear most of the stations in the Bay Area (200 miles awa!) and surprisingly the HO-Loop had enough gain that I could usually contact any stations that I had worked on the 2-meter band, also on the 6-meter band. The solar panels were putting out around 25 watts, more than enough to power the radio and keep the battery charged.

The trip down the mountain went well - lots of nice views!

Overall it was a good trip. Not an easy hike, but definitely rewarding in terms of radio contacts and scenery!

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