Friday, August 26, 2016

HFpack - On The Air

With the days getting shorter as we move forward towards fall, I have been finding it easy to beat the sun out of bed in the morning, although getting up has never been a problem for me, what with my days starting at 5am on most mornings.

I have loved early mornings going back to my childhood, and long before I had even begun my schooling at the age of six.
Even through my teenage years and in to my twenties while living in Calgary, myself and friends could be out most of the night, and while everyone slept in, I would be gone fly-fishing on one of my favorite trout streams located along the eastern slope of the southern Alberta Rockies.

Well that's enough rambling on that subject, I get it....I get out of bed in the morning, the earlier the better!
On this morning, and long before sunrise, I was backing off my driveway with my destination on the day being the Hump (local name given this very distinctive looking geographical pass - my truck lies within it) that lies on the southern slopes of  Hailstone Butte located just north of secondary highway 532 in Kananaskis Country, part of the southern Alberta Rockies.
The Hump has an elevation of 6600' with the summit of  Hailstone Butte another 700' higher.
My plan was to park my mobile at the small lake that lies beside the summit pass of the Hump, and once I arrived, I would hike up to a ridge located just south and approximately another 200 meters above where I would leave my mobile parked a 1/2 kilometer away.
Of course my quest on the day was to set up and operate my portable HF station that I had loaded in the cargo bay of my mobile before leaving home.

Now I was planning on operating a minimalist station, so needless to say I planned on taking only what it took to get on the air without weighting myself down with unnecessary gear.
That meant that I was taking my 10-60 meter vertical antenna, my Yaesu FT-897D with its internal battery packs, the MFJ tripod I recently made a number of modifications to, and a big part of the reason why this trip was taking place, as I wanted to see how the tripod would handle the winds that tend to funnel through the area where I would be operating from.

Upon arriving and once I was ready to hike up to the ridge, I couldn't help but notice the lack of wind, and this was a surprise as normally the wind seems to never stop when I'm out this way. Still, I wasn't totally heart-broken, as I liked the idea of no wind on such a beautiful morning as I hiked along the lower slope I was on leading to the ridge visible in the distance.
30 minutes later with a couple of stops for photographs, I arrived at the ridge that I had scouted out earlier in the spring while snow still lie in patches on the ground. I had promised myself then to return and operate my HF portable station from this ridge that looks out onto the southern Alberta plains, with stunning views to the horizon a 100 kilometers in the distance.

As soon as I arrived, I dropped my gear and began setting up. In no time I had the tripod levelled off, and soon thereafter I had my antenna assembled and mounted in place on the MFJ tripod that I had made modifications too several days back.
 The modifications included cutting down the center section and discarding the telescopic pole and plastic mounting hardware.
 I then make up a new adapter for the top of the tripod especially made to fit the 10-60 meter vertical antenna. This improved the rigidity of the tripod tremendously.
I also made up inserts for the legs of the tripod that allows for leveling off the tripod on uneven ground, therefore allowing the antenna to stand straight.
Metal eyelets were installed on all 3 legs (at the foot of each), allowing the tripod to be anchored to the ground if necessary due to the wind blowing (well not today!).
I also installed a grounding lug at the bottom of the center column for attaching the antenna ground radials to the tripod.
With my portable station operational, and looking to the east, although somewhat hazy on this morning, the southern Alberta plains visible out to the horizon were memorizing as I spun the dial, and on occasion making calls.
 Conditions on 40 meters weren't great by any means, but they were sufficient that I was being heard and logged a number of contacts that included Dar W6IO in Shingleton California, and you can listen to the audio of that contact in the audio file below this post.

On this morning, I had my FT-897D running on its internal battery pack, limiting the power out to 20 watts. If I use a external power supply like my 30 caliber power pack, the 897 can then be operated at 100 watts.
Of course someone will have to carry all that extra battery weight, and that wasn't about to happen on this day!
So all in all I had a very successful morning while playing radio in the southern Alberta Rockies, and I was able to proof the recent changes that I made to my equipment as described above. My 10-60 meter antenna continues to impress me with how it performs, and I cannot stress enough how much I enjoy operating what may be the ultimate radio of its type, the Yaesu FT-897D  with its military build, while set up as a portable backcountry HF station.

With that said, and after dismantling and packing up, I hiked back down to my mobile and made the drive west over to secondary highway 940, and backroaded north to Highwood House before driving east through the Highwood Valley, the location of many of Alberta's historical ranches dating back to Alberta's beginnings, before reaching Longview where I picked up highway 22 best known as the Cowboy Trail and north to home.
All in all, an end to a very good day out playing radio in what is some of the finest country to be found in Alberta. It don't get any better than that!

NOTE.....all the photos expand.

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