August 4, 2023 - Silver Star Mountain, North Okanagan, British Columbia

Austin VE7QH had indicated that he would be travelling through Vernon this day and figured he could fit in a quick summits on the air/parks on the air activation (SPOTA). Mike VE7KPZ figured he could also sneak away from work to make it a double double activation. Word was put out via the SOTA alerts, the POTA activations listing, the BC SOTA Facebook page and the NORAC website inviting others to join or chase/hunt the operators.

The activation team met up just before 10 AM at the Silver Star ski/bike resort parking area and a decision was made to ride the gondola to the summit. Passes were purchased and within minutes the team was in the activation zone. The gondola operators were consulted in regards to where best to setup in order to stay out of the way of hikers and mountain bikers. The perfect spot was selected at a secluded picnic table just behind the cell tower located just behind the peak's fire lookout. We were just inside the summit activation zone and had a great line of sight to the city of Vernon in the valley below as well as the Okanagan valley to the south.

This time around we would share equipment to make it more of a social activation and pass the mic back and forth for the two operators. We started off by affixing Austin's DIY roll up VHF J-pole antenna to the top of Mike's SOTABEAMS tactical mini pole. Some coax was run to Mike's (now Austin's) VoCom 100 watt VHF amplifier (likely outputting around 20 watts as we were exciting it with 0.5 watts vs 2.0 watts required for full power output) and then on to Austin's HT to excite the amp. We made a couple of local contacts quickly on VHF FM but reports indicated a possible issue with the microphone cable. We then moved over to Mike's Icom IC-705 for further VHF FM QSOs and in total worked 11 contacts each.

Next up was 2m SSB via the IC-705 at 10 watts (as the amp only did FM). We were surprised to easily work another 9 contacts, some as far as Osoyoos, way down the Okanagan valley nearing the USA border. Then it was time to put up the HF antenna, and while doing so worked another 2 meter FM contact on Austin's HT directly.

Austin's QRP-rated EFHW was thrown up over a tree in a bit of an inverted V configuration. Mike plugged the IC-705 into his DIY599 PA500 amplifier (with KN6STX cooling solution so that we could operate full-duty-cycle in direct sunlight on a decidedly warm 27 degrees Celcius (80 F) day at the peak) for a good 40 watt PEP SSB output on 20m. Another 18 QSOs followed for the two operators. These 36 total QSOs heated the toroid of the antenna and turned the hot glue that held it in place into a sloppy mess. Austin now has plans for purchase a higher-power-handling antenna (as he also now also has his own DIY599 PA500 amplifier).

Finally, we tore town all the gear and while doing so worked another pair of VHF FM contacts on the HTs. In total our logs each sported 41 QSOs. The summit (1 QSO required for the summit, 4 QSOs required for the points) and the park (10 QSOs required for the activation) were well and truly in the bag.

Notable QSOs included many local Vernon HAMs (great to have so many folks with 146.52 in their scan banks) and 2m SSB (10 watt) contacts all the way down the Okanagan valley almost into the USA. VHF operation from a summit is very effective even with minimal watts of RF into zero-gain antennas if there are towns in the valleys below.

It was a really nice time,

Ps: here are some pics from the event:

The ride up.

View from gondola on the ascent to the summit.

Our activation spot is right behind this fire lookout and cell tower, down to the right a bit.

Just inside the activation zone as per SOTA Goat.

J-pole antenna for VHF on fiberglass pole velcroed to tree.

Mike working VHF FM with the sketchy mic cable.

Austin working VHF FM on the IC-705.

Ready to head back down the gondola.

The ride back down.