VE100VIMY / TM100VIMY – Presentation at Lillers

The impact of the 100th anniversary of the battle Arras including the northern sector attacked by Candian forces at Vimy Ridge is plain to see throughout the Pas de Calais region of northern France. The front line passed through here for most of WWI, and there are memorials, cemeteries, museums and battlefields everywhere. Many of the villages around Vimy Ridge are decked out with Canadian flags, and wherever we go we are asked whether we are here for the 100th anniversary commemoration. We see groups of visitors and school parties at the battle sites and cemeteries; tens of thousands will attend the official memorial ceremony on the 9th at the Canadian war memorial on Vimy Ridge.

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One of the tunnels dug by New Zealand troops under Arras

Most of our team is staying in Arras, which was the center of the British attack, in the sector south of Vimy. The Carrière Wellington museum in Arras (where you can visit part of the network of tunnels and quarries used by the Allied forces to protect troops prior to the offensive at Arras, south of Vimy) is busy with many extra visitors.

 

The special event operation TM100VIMY brought together 17 Canadian and French amateur radio operators to commemorate the battle of Vimy Ridge. One of our local collaborators is Sylvie, F1PSH, a leader in the F4KIS radio club in Lillers. She arranged for us to present a lecture and discussion on Canada, Vimy and our special event operation.

Anne, XYL K3EL spoke about the history of Canada at the time of WWI and the Canadian memorial at Vimy Ridge, while Dave, K3EL discussed the battle, and also explained to the audience what amateur radio was and how TM100VIMY was participating in the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the battle. Several classes from the local Lycee Anatole France were present, as well as members of the local historical society, veterans groups and radio amateurs. After the lecture, the students headed off to catch their buses, while the rest of the audience remained to enjoy a “pot” (special liquids from Bourgogne!) with the radio team.

 

 

 

VE100VIMY / TM100VIMY – Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge

9th April 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge, perhaps the most famous of the battles fought by the Canadian armed forces during World War I. Vimy Ridge is a long hill, running south-west to north-east on the southern edge of the Douai Plain in northern France. Taken and fortified early in WWI by German forces, the ridge provided a strong defense against Allied attack towards the valuable coalfields around the town of Lens. British and French attacks at Vimy earlier in the war were unsuccessful, and hugely costly in lives. Originally intended as a diversion to draw German forces away from a major French offensive further to the south, the Canadian attack at Vimy Ridge in April 2017 succeeded, perhaps beyond expectations, in taking this strong point. It is considered by many an important event in Canadian history: This was the first occasion that the four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force fought together and the success of these troops drawn from across Canada has been said to be the “moment when Canada leapt in spirit from colony to nation”. Today, Vimy Ridge is the site of the Canadian national war memorial, located close to the highest point on the ridge.

Many events have been organized this year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the battle, including a series of amateur radio operations in Canada (VE100VIMY) and in France (TM100VIMY) organized by the Vimy Commemorative Station Society with the participation of Canadian and French amateur radio operators. The VE100VIMY callsign traveled around Canada for the first months of 2017 with operations from each Canadian province. The week before the anniversary of the battle, TM100VIMY took over operations, located on the site of the Canadian memorial park on Vimy ridge, a piece of land ceded to Canada by France in 1922 to become the site of the Canadian war memorial.

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The Canadian war memorial, Vimy Ridge. TM100VIMY QSL Card.

The principal organizers of this memorial operation are Don, VE7DS and Keith, VE7KW, with Didier, F6BCW the principal co-organizer in France. Although today I go by the callsign K3EL, I used to live and was licensed in VE2 and so as a “Canadian by adoption” was pleased and honored to be invited to participate in the VE100VIMY/TM100VIMY operation. If you hear us on the bands, please give us a call! Then, look at the website of the Vimy Commemorative Station Society, or the website of Veterans Affairs Canada detailing the history of the battle of Vimy Ridge and the planned commemorative events..

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Frank, VO1HP and Chris, VE3FU, operating from TM100VIMY.

A Travelling Ham

K3EL, OZ1AA, W2GD

A few days ago a post appeared on the Frankford Radio Club reflector, saying that a Danish radio amateur, Thomas, OZ1AA, was cycling through our club’s region and was looking for places to stay. Thomas was not just doing a local tour, he’s cycling around the world and is into his fifth year of two-wheeled travelling. He has a fascinating blog which details his travels at http://www.cyclingtheglobe.com/

We thoroughly enjoyed having Thomas visit, and were joined for the evening by John, W2GD, who has been following Thomas’ progress for a while. Over dinner we swapped stories of DX, cycling, and contesting. Word of Thomas’ travels has spread through the ham community all the way up the east coast as he heads for Canada, and almost everywhere he’s been welcomed by radio amateurs who have offered him a place to stay and been rewarded by tales from countries we often reach out to by radio, but rarely visit in person.

SOTA in Vermont: Blue Ridge Mountain, W1/GM-033 and Ludlow Mountain, W1/GM-037, May, 2015

Our last SOTA visit to Vermont was in October of 2014; the trees had changed color and were losing their leaves and it was cool enough to require hats and mitts.

Fast forward to May 2015. The trees are in leaf, the sun is shining and summer is just round the corner. Shorts and t-shirts… not so fast. This is VT, and the morning we planned to go up Blue Ridge Mountain it was below freezing when we got up, and we were discussing whether we had enough layers or whether we needed a quick stop at EMS for more thermal underwear!

Blue Ridge Mountain (3278 ft / 999 m) is close to Killington and Pico ski areas, with easy access from Old Turnpike Rd., off Rt. 4, above Rutland. The Canty Trail used to start at a gated dirt road, but now the trail head has been relocated a few hundred yards further up Old Turnpike Rd., with a small roadside parking area for a few vehicles. The trail is generally very clear, well marked with blue blazes, and is well-maintained. The first half-mile or so is up and down through woods, then the trail crosses a stream, and shortly afterwards arrives at an old farm road which starts a steady climb. Following this upwards, always fairly close to the stream, the road ascends gently for another half mile or so, but then transforms into an increasingly steep and rocky trail. In places you can easily drop down to the stream to see the falls and pools.

Long exposure of cascade on mountain stream

Cascade, Canty Trail

As the route heads away from the stream, the steepest section of trail gives way to a sustained but more moderate climb, with the trees changing to predominantly conifers near the top. There is a small, rocky summit, with views to the south east. A short spur trail leads to an opening in the woods just below the summit, overlooking Rutland. The total ascent is about 1500 ft, and the hike to the top took us about two hours.

The radio equipment for this activation was my usual SOTA setup, KX3, with a 33 foot vertical supported by a DX Wire fiberglass pole, fed at the base with a switchable 1:1 or 1:4 unun. The pole was pushed up through some of the stunted trees at summit, easily reaching above the highest branches. The summit rocks provided a comfortable enough spot to set up. Conditions were not great, but still made 32 HF QSOs (24 NA, 8 EU)  over an hour of operation. One was a 15 m CW summit-to-summit contact with N1FJ, on Mt. Ascutney, in SE VT; guess this was line of sight propagation, not involving too many bounces off the ionosphere. Tried calling on 2 m, but no responses.

As far as I know, this was the first SOTA activation of Blue Ridge Mountain.

Vertical antenna on the summit of W1/GM-033

Vertical antenna on the summit of W1/GM-033

The following day, we took the easy option, driving Mountain Road most of the way up Ludlow Mountain W1/GM-037. This is the ski resort of Okemo, and in the winter the road forms one of the easier trails down the mountain. Parking at the gated end of the road, it’s a short climb up to the summit where a fire tower gives a fantastic view above the trees. It was quite windy, and I really felt exposed up on the tower. Coming back down, we walked into the woods a short distance from the fire tower and set up the station among the trees. Again, leaning the pole against branch avoided having to put out any guys to keep the antenna up – in contrast to the winds up the fire tower, it was calm in the woods. We had hiked elsewhere in the morning, so it was mid-afternoon by the time we got to W1/GM-037 and by then propagation conditions were not great, so after a relatively short activation (22 contacts), it was time to go back down the hill.

K3EL operating from Ludlow Mountain, W1/GM-037

K3EL operating from Ludlow Mountain, W1/GM-037

My usual specialty is grungy one-pointers in NJ, so grabbing four points for Blue Ridge Mountain and six for Ludlow was a novel experience (especially since Ludlow didn’t involve much climbing). Blue Ridge Mountain is 999 m high, so it just misses out by 1 m from being a six-pointer. Maybe if we start building a cairn and all leave a rock on the top, it could get upgraded in a year or two?

SOTA Bald Mountain W1/GM-167, 12th October 2014

My XYL and I have been visiting the Green Mountains for years, but it’s only recently that we’ve come to SOTA, hence I didn’t realize how many of the W1/GM summits have never been activated. If the numbers on SOTAwatch are accurate, less than 50 of the 253 GM summits have been SOTA’d! Having had a fine time at Antone Mountain on Saturday, what could we do on Sunday? Well, with all those summits begging for an activation, more SOTA, of course! There are probably access issues for many peaks which explains why they haven’t been activated, but after a little consultation with SOTA maps, the adventure radio maps and the Green Mountain Club’s “Day Hiker’s Guide to Vermont” we found a few unactivated SOTA summits with good trails. Bald Mountain was chosen as the day’s target. Now comes the “mea culpa” – during the activation I was giving out W1/GM-055 as the summit reference. That is a Bald Mountain, about 10 miles south-west of Rutland, but its not the Bald Mountain which we activated, (W1/GM-167) in the Aitken State Forest, a couple of miles to the east of Rutland. Apologies to all chasers for the confusion caused. Just to add to the potential for mix-ups, there are another two SOTA summits named Bald Mountain and one Bald Hill in the W1/GM area, as well as many other Balds which don’t count for SOTA. Bald Mountain W1/GM-167 is not particularly aptly-named, since although there are a couple of excellent viewpoints the summit is mostly well-wooded, and not bald at all. Perhaps it was balder back in the day?

The start of the Bald Mountain trail.

The start of the Bald Mountain trail.

Bald Mountain is a relatively low summit (2090 feet) on a chain of hills just to the east of Rutland which separate the Otter Creek valley from the higher Green Mountain peaks of Killington and Pico. There is a loop trail which traverses the north and south summits of Bald Mountain, offering shorter or longer loop options (map). The trail is clearly signed at junctions, and there are fading blue paint blazes along the way (less faded in one direction than the other – perhaps they didn’t tell the last lad they sent up the hill with the pot of paint to color both sides of the trees?). There’s a short connecting section of trail from the road to the start of the loop, with sections of puncheon and boulders to step across – looks like it can get wet at times. After about 10 min, there’s an obvious fork in the trail with a big sign to indicate the beginning of the loop. We took the circuit clockwise, the most direct route to the higher northern summit. From this point, it’s a moderately steep trail, easy to follow, through an open hardwood forest.There are several viewpoints along the loop, offering vistas of the central Green Mountains, of the valley, and of Rutland.

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K3EL at one of the clearings offering a view of Pico Peak.

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Fiberglass mast propped up between the tree branches.

One of the viewpoints is near the summit. Close by is an enticing boulder offering comfortable seating to operate from, and thus our site was chosen. Equipment was the same as for Saturday’s activation of Antone Mountain. Once more, the trees provided a convenient support for the pole, and so we were able to dispense with guy ropes. At the summit the trees are quite low, and so the antenna mast protruded well above the topmost branches. There was a good Verizon cell signal at this site, so easy to see if you’re spotted on SOTAwatch – it was impressive to see how quickly an RBN spot appeared after calling CQ.

 

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The operating rock, Bald Mt.

Once the radio was set up, we donned our extra layers. The temperature was only in the 40s and we expected to be sat around for an hour or more – having hauled the radio gear up the hill, I don’t want to just have the minimum four QSOs to make an “official” activation, I want to stay long enough to make a QSO with anyone who wants one. First QSO was with DL6AP at 1542, and both 17 m and 15 m were hopping, with about 2/3 of the contacts with EU. After that, it was time for lunch. 40 m then provided some more local Qs, then up to 20 before finishing up on 15 m, last contact being with I6FPN at 1709. Out of 62 contacts, 25 were with North America, the rest with EU. This was a record number of contacts for one of my SOTA activations, and we also had bight sunshine, a good flat rock for a seat, and a view of the mountains from our summit location. What more could you ask for?

Fungi at the base of the trail.

Fungi at the base of the trail.

Bald Mt. was a pretty busy summit. We arrived around 10 am, at which time the parking spaces across from the gate to the trail were empty. When we returned mid-afternoon there were several cars, and we met quite a few walkers during the day. One commented that “it’s only locals that come up here”, he was clearly surprised to find two tourists from NJ on his mountain. We didn’t meet much wildlife. Perhaps all the activity on the trail scared them off. Lots of attractive mushrooms near the bottom of the trail, though.

Thanks to all the “chasers”, who make SOTA such an entertaining activity!