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CQ de LA8OKA from Galdhoepiggen, Norway's Highest Peak

05/06/2008

Saturday, August 5, 2006, I took the trekking route from Spiterstulen to Galdhoepiggen, Norway's highest peak at 2469 meters above sea level (masl). This was planned to be a trip with two of my radio amateur friends from the LA1FDG LA Field Day Group, but during the week before the trip, one hurt his back and the other got a terrible cold. Because I had already done so much planning for this trip I decided to go to Galdhoepiggen anyway. Since I was going by myself, I decided to use my own call sign in place of using the LA1FDG Field Day call sign.

On the way to the summit I also climbed the sub-summits Svellnose (2272 masl) and Keilhaus summit (2355 masl) since the Norwegian Trekking Association's marked path goes quite near them also. The Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT in Norwegian) offers one of Europe's larger marked hiking trail networks (20,000 km) and arguably the world's most extensive cross-country skiing track networks (7000 km). DNT also maintain 450 cabins for trekkers.

It was excellent weather with almost no wind and a nice warm sun, so I was walking in shorts and a T-shirt all the way to the summit. Because my sleeping mat was tied on the outside of my backpack, I got questioned by many if I was going to sleep on the summit; I answered yes on this question.

An Easy Climb with Reindeer for Company

The marked path is easy to follow all the way to the top, and because of this, everyone with some mountain experience should be able reach the summit, at least when its nice weather, like it was on this particular day. If it's bad weather, it's, of course, a whole different story!

Due to my heavy backpack I took it easy on the way to the summit. I was going to sleep there anyway, so there was no reason to rush to the top.

There were a lot of reindeer to see during the trip to the top. Due to the heat they tended to stay on the glaciers to avoid insects and to get some cooling. There were many eager photographers who pulled up their cameras and zoom lenses to get a shot of the reindeers. The reindeer didn't seem to take any notice of all the people. They are probably so used to having their picture taken that they would probably be insulted if we didn't try to photograph them, hi. These reindeer belong to local farmers and not to Santa Claus, as some of the children were told by their parents.

There was quite a crowd on the summit; approximately 800 people reached the top this day. Most of them were already on their way back down to the valley when I reached the summit with my heavy backpack. I managed to find a place without too much wind behind some large rocks and started to cook myself a meal. Food always tastes delicious when trekking in the mountains.

An Oasis at the Summit

I used the evening to talk to Erlend; he lives on the summit of Galdhoepiggen for 6 weeks working for the owners of the summit hut. The special architecture of the hut mimics the drake heads from the famous Norwegian Stave Churches. He sells coffee, food and chocolate during the daytime. He uses the evenings to clear the summit of the garbage left there by the tourists. The prices in the kiosk where quite high, but none seemed to care about this. I guess most of the people were glad that someone else made the effort to carry everything up there.

Despite some wind, I had it nice and warm inside my sleeping bag and I didn't had any problems sleeping through the night outside. (It's not allowed for tourists to sleep inside the cabin.)

A Good Day for DX

I woke up to a beautiful morning. After breakfast I set up the antenna between the summit disk [a viewing device used to determine names and distances for other summits -- Ed.] and a couple of walking poles that I had brought with me.

I used an ICOM IC-703 transceiver (www.icomamerica.com); this transceiver has a built-in antenna tuner and a 10 W output on HF and 50 MHz. Even with only 10 W I had several transatlantic SSB contacts earlier. To power the transceiver I used a 7.2 Ah battery; this battery provides enough power for several hours of operation with the IC-703. Unfortunately this is a sealed lead acid battery and it weighs about 2.7 kg (5.9 lbs), actually more than the transceiver. But lead-acid batteries are cheap, easy to get and easy to charge.

The antenna I used was a simple half-wave dipole antenna, and with luck, I had some hope of tuning the antenna up on 17 meters with the built-in antenna tuner. When the antenna was set up it turned out that it was only possible to tune the antenna on 20 meters. That was probably due to its very low height above ground. Previously I had tuned this antenna with ease on 17 meters, but then the antenna had been considerably higher above ground. To save as much weight as I could, I had only brought with me a short piece of coax, just about 3 meters. Due to this, I placed the transceiver right below the feed point of the antenna.

In a short time I managed to make contacts with several radio amateurs from Germany, Ukraine and Italy. The special location attracted a lot of attention on the band, especially with German stations, many of whom had a good knowledge of Norwegian geography. One German had even been on the summit of Galdhoepiggen himself.

Amateur Radio Ambassador

As time passed, more and more people who arrived at the summit started to ask me what I was doing. The contact rated dropped, since I took the time to tell them about Amateur Radio and show them how it all worked.

A couple of the people who had climbed the summit turned out to have radio amateurs as neighbors; I bet they had an unusual story to tell their neighbor when they got back home!

It was clear that many people were impressed when they could hear European and American stations loud and clear with this simple equipment, when it was almost impossible to get coverage with their cellular phones.

My handheld, a Kenwood TH-7E (www.kenwoodusa.com) also attracted some interest and I had to show how I could reach people down in the valley by using one of the local repeaters.

I think this is a good example of how it's possible to combine trekking and outdoor life with Amateur Radio and have a lot of fun while doing it! Be sure to bring some ham gear with you next time you are going for some trekking in the wilderness!

Martin Storli, LA8OKA, was born in 1973. He received his first Amateur Radio license as LC2AAT in 1995 and his present call sign LA8OKA in 2003. He is a degreed Avionics Engineer currently responsible for all communication, navigation and electric equipment for the fleet of a major Norwegian airline. He spends his spare time with his wife and his hobbies: Amateur Radio, mountaineering and other outdoor activities. He also likes to travel around the world and, whenever it's possible, tries to bring along some ham gear. He has been active using the following call signs: LA8OKA Norway, LC2AAT Norway, JW8OKA Svalbard, EA/LA8OKA Spain, EI/LA8OKA Ireland, OX/LA8OKA Greenland, W7/LA8OKA Arizona, USA, M/LA8OKA England.

When on the air he enjoys DXing, APRS and portable operation. He is a casual contest and digimode operator. He always attends the NRRL Field Day where he combines Amateur Radio with his outdoor hobbies. He can be reached through the e-mail address above or his Web site, www.arcticpeak.com

All photos courtesy of Martin Storli, LA8OKA.

Martin Storli, LA8OKA



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