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Last month my friend Ralph got bitten by the bug to operate his small portable radio on a summit of a local peak. He had been reading about the SOTA (Summits on the Air) organization and felt like giving it a try. So we picked the next date I was available to do a backcountry trip and we planned to operate for a couple of hours from the summit of Mt Cheam. Mt. Cheam was our first choice as it was already a registered peak with the group and the access and trail were not difficult though the hike was still 4.5km each way.
Ralph hadn’t done any mountain peaks so he really didn’t know what to expect or what was needed. The first thing I had him do to prepare was for him to hike some of the steep roads in White Rock. I figured if he couldn’t do them then there was no way he would do a summit. He tried a couple of the steeper roads in White Rock and felt it was fairly easy. So that confirmed, we met a couple days before the hike to review his supplies and backpack. My son Geoff gave him some tips and helped him to finalize the items he would be packing up. So we were ready and good to go for Saturday, the weather looked good if not too hot, so we felt sure we would be on the slopes come the week-end.
To beat the heat of the day we set out from my house at 6:30AM and made for the nearest Starbucks to load up on our requisite caffeine. Then it was on to the open road. I had estimated that we would be starting the hike about 2.5 hours from when we left the house so when we arrived at the start of the logging road after just a bit more than an hour Ralph thought we would be quite early. He really didn’t know logging roads! The mainline was quick but soon we were onto the Chipmunk Creek FSR and it was very rough and had numerous patches of bad potholes. Needless to say, the speed of the drive dropped considerably and it took almost an hour to get to the parking area and that was with passing a couple of SUV’s.
Having arrived, the lot had only a few cars in it and we picked the spot closest to the trail head. We got our gear in order and items locked up that we were leaving and by the time we wereready to start it was 2.5 hours from our home departure. The day was still cool and we made good time along the first segment which follows the old logging road. Then we dropped down into the bowl – Spoon Lake was full of debris and still had ice in it. Continuing along we started the intial ascent which was fortunately still in the shadow of Lady Peak and so we avoided the heat during the steep part of the hike. We made really good time upto the top of the open knoll where we took a breather before continuing on to the col between Cheam and Lady Peak. By now a few groups of young people zipped past us on their journey to the summit. Though slow we made steady progress and reached the summit after 2 hour 20 minutes of hiking almost bang on to my 2.5 hours estimate.
At the top we joined the ever growing crowds of hikers and after a brief visit to the summit we backed down along the ridge to a level wide spot where we could safely set up Ralph’s radio and antenna. We wanted to be a bit distant from the sea of human bodies. The site was only a short distance from the summit but still had a great view of te Fraser Valley. Here we secured Ralph’s fishing pole with some rocks and he stretched out his thin wires to create a dipole. It was a very simple arrangement and soon he had his KX-1 assembled and he was sending out code with all of one watt of power. Itt was enough as he very quickly made contact with another chap doing the same thing as us down in California! Ralph continued to work his radio and by the end of two hours had secured 6 stations.
We had our lunch in the middle of the operating session, Ralph a sandwich, I heated water for a warm meal. During the session we had numerous people come buy to learn what we were doing. They all seemed quite interested and surprised at how far we were reaching. As two PM arrived we felt reasted but apprehensive of the long trek back down. We kept it slow and steady so as to not damage our sore joints. In the end we took two hours to get back – not much less than the time to go up. There was a chap who passed us on the way down we had been counting the people hiking the mountain this day He had counted 191 persons on te hill! It really is quite the highway. It was good to see the truck and we soon got our gear stowed and ourselves packed and ready to depart after a great adventure on the slope.We saw that trucks had filled up the lot and later ones parked along the side for quite a distance! I sure was glad we didn’t have to lengthen our hike due to a full parking lot.
The final drive out went fairly quickly even though it was very rough and we got bounced around quite a bit. When we reached pavement we reflected on the hike and radio event and felt we had achieved a successful event now we need to plan for another one.