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Early this year I planned some of the summits I wanted to activate this year and Mount Strachan was on this list. I thought it would be a good one to do with my friend Ralph and so I kept it open through the early part of the season for when we could go. I planned for August 10thwith him but as the days got closer I learned that Ralph would be out of town for the day. Not wanting to lose the opportunity I decided I would go solo, but then I remembered that a chap was coming up from Arizona on the following week-end who was looking for a partner. So I contacted Keith (VA3RRK, KR7RK) who said he would be delighted to hike Strachan with me.
Looking a week ahead the weather looked a bit questionable but that really is too early to make decisions off of so I kept watching the forecasts and as the day approached the weather was improving. So come Saturday morning I set out for the Cypress parking lot and then started looking for Keith. We had planned to meet at 9:30 and shortly before the time I noticed a solitary chap in the distance standing in the middle of the lot looking for something. I walked towards him and we found each other. A quick walk back to the car to load up my pack and we were off.
Keith asked about the trail up. I said that there were three basic approaches. A long gradual one which I did my first time but really didn’t want to take the time on today. Up the service road which I did on my second hike but it is rather boring and lacking in scenery. That left the short cut trail which bypasses a large bit of the long route but is much steeper. So we started out on the trail and where the short cut branched off we took it up the steeper slope. It wasn’t nearly as well marked or used but the trail was still reasonably easy to find – a few short miss-steps but we quickly gained the elevation to where it rejoined the longer trail and then we had a clearer path and a less steep one for a while.
By this point we were about an hour into the trek and had come across no others on the trail. Soon we passed the fork to Hollyburn and now we started to encounter others on the trail and some walking the road not that distant from us. The trail passed some lovely ponds and open meadow areas before starting up a steep section to the southern summit. We met up with some groups coming down and a few continuing up, it was getting a bit crowded on this segment. As we climbed some rocky bits Keith mentioned how his 10k run earlier this morning was starting to make itself felt. I could only wonder as I was long past feeling all that energetic and I didn’t do a warm up run before this hike! We stopped to view the crashed aircraft from 1963. It remarkable that people have left it intact all these years
After a bit more grunt work and pushing ourselves we finally reached the ridge line of the southern summit. It was easy hiking for a while now until we reached the drop to the col between the summits. Up here is where most people were gathered and only a few were continuing on to the next. But SOTA requires the true summit so we found the path down the side to the col and then started up the trail on the far side. Another 15 minutes and we (I) were dragging ourselves on to the summit area. We had arrived, but there was a serious problem. After all the effort, the clouds were hiding all the view. Keith had seen my earlier photos of the area and was looking forward to the sights – nothing.
We decided to get going with the radios and so we each set up our stations. I had my 2m rig up and going fairly quickly but Keith had quite a bit to do – a full size OCF HF antenna, a KX2, a 100 watt power amplifier, a heavy key and a thick board to bolt it all to! A fair amount of weight for packing but he seemed no worse for wear. Soon I had more than enough contacts in the log and decided to take a break to eat some lunch. The Whiskey Jacks were circling and demanding some of it so I decided to share a small amount of the crust with them. They really are quite brazen (friendly) about picking up treats right off your hand. Meanwhile Keith was busy chasing other SOTA activators on summits across the continent. He had several already in his incredibly neat log book. I had made 2 S2S on 2m but he was racking them in one after the other.
A bit later I did some 20m SSB contacts on his radio and with the 100 watts it sure made it easy compared to my usual QRP mode. Then Keith was able to finish the log off with a contact to a station in Australia, just to prove that carrying a bit of weight is worth it! So we both had a good session of contacts and now it was time to pack up and head on back. We made some decent time getting down to the col and then back up to the south summit. We decided we were both a bit tired and not really wanting to tackle the steep trail so we opted to take the road back down. One would think that would be easy but the loose gravel on the steep sections was harder than one would think and it did take a fair concentration to ensure ones feet stayed under them.
Soon we came by the place where the road and the main trail basically connect which is just up from the Hollyburn fork. Originally Keith was thinking of doing two summits but as we reached the point of decision he decided it was getting late and that it would be best just to continue down the road and save Hollyburn for another trip. So we continued down together and before long we had reached the cars in the lot. I was definitely ready to just sit and relax for a long time. We said our good byes with plans to try some others at a future date. A very successful adventure on Strachan though we had only a brief view of Howe Sound when at the summit.