C31LJ 160 Meter CW DXpedition

Sunrise, Col de Botella, Andorra

April 27, 2007

For the past few years, Ontario contesters have been gathering for an annual barbeque in August. Every year, without fail, I have been surrounded by a few operators who ask the same question? “When are you going to be on 160? I still need Andorra on 160!”

The sunspot cycle is at its 11 year low. That is the best time for operating on top band. Now I have a camper, I can spend a night on the mountain in relative comfort and attempt to make those difficult contacts with North America.

On Friday afternoon, I headed up the mountain and carefully measured out a dipole for 160 meters. With the center supported by a 5 meter fibreglass fishing pole, the ends could be held 3 meters above the ground by securing them to the poles used by the snowplough to see the edge of the road. 5 meters is very low for a 160 meter antenna, but the road is at the edge of a steep dropoff of several hundred meters in the direction of North America. This location has worked very well on other bands, and I am hoping it will work for 160 as well.

I sent an email to a few hams that I was going to be on the air later that night and tried to get a few hours sleep in the evening. I awoke at midnight and headed back to the top of the mountain, a half hour drive from home. In the dark and cold I was able to string the dipole back in place and extend the pole. Although it was threatening to rain, there were only a few drops of freezing drizzle as I worked by flashlight.

Inside the camper it was still warm. I fired up the Icom 706 and began calling CQ. I worked a number of Europeans who confirmed that my signal was strong and that the equipment was working. With thunderstorms over France, there were heavy static crashes, making communications difficult. At 0026z, I worked VE1ZJ. Sunset arrives first in the Maritimes, and he had the first chance to work me. I had really expected to work some VE1s earlier and was afraid that my signal wasn't strong enough to cross the Atlantic. It was nice to know I was making it.

At 0033z, I heard VE3EXY. Nenad is my QSL manager, and his recent email asking about 160 operation was what had inspired me to spend the night on the mountain like this. I was happy to know that he had worked a new one.

Over the next few hours I worked dozens of stations in Canada and the US, most of them for the first time on this band. It was satisfying to know that I was making so many hams happy. Eventually, sunrise came and the band closed down. Outside, I found that it had been raining at my altitude, but the surrounding peaks were all dusted with fresh snow. The temperature was just below zero, according to my thermometer.

Saturday, after a good sleep in the afternoon, I decided to head back up again. I went up earlier with the hopes of making some contacts in the far east as well as to work a lot of Europeans. Although the band was much quieter, with fewer static crashes, conditions were not nearly as good as the previous night. I worked a lot of Europeans and a few North Americans, but didn't make any contacts with the far east or down under.

It was a short, sweet DXpedition to Col de Botella and now it is time to resume my paragliding nomadness adventures. Off to France in the morning.

Col de Botella on Google Earth.

On to France

There are more pictures in the Photo Album

Peter Jennings