I am Dave, 91SD218 and this is an account of my trekking and DX
activation visit recently to Nepal with my friend Donald who is a commercial
artist. While I would be talking on the radio, Donald would be drawing
Our plan was to fly to Kathmandu from Jakarta via Bangkok and leave the next
day for Jiri by car and then walk for a week into the Everest region of
Read more for the rest of the story, photos & proofs…
Unfortunately Nepal is having it’s fair share of civil unrest recently and on our arrival at the airport from Bangkok the Maoists had called a travel strike and not only was there no-one to meet us but there was no transport into the city from the airport!
Finally we had to pay exorbitant prices for two pedicabs to pedal us and our gear to our Hotel in
the Thamel area of Kathmandu. It did not bode well for us to leave the next morning as nobody knew at that stage if the Ban would be continued. After some enquiries we found someone who was prepared to commit to the 6 hour drive as long as we could leave before 0500 the following morning. Great! We spent the rest of the day finalizing the packs.
Dipole antenna in Kathmandu
I had a couple of spare moments late in the afternoon and unpacked the FT-817 from it’s sealed plastic container and with miracle whip antenna in hand proceeded to the rooftop of the hotel to see if I could hear anything. Running off the internal batteries the 817 will put out 2.5 watts so I did not expect to work anything. I placed the radio on top of a huge flat steel water tank and turned it on and fiddled with the antenna for strongest noise on 555. I tuned through the band and heard 1SD227 5/9 in QSO with Australia. I didn’t have a pen or paper and to this day I don’t remember the frequency but I gave him a call and he came back to me. DX heaven. 2.5w and a 48" telescopic antenna and stations were hearing me! Worked several other European stations
as 86SD/0 before coming to my senses and rushing downstairs to get my logbook and pen so I could record them!
When I got back the skip had gone! I was quite sad but I hoped it was a good sign for the days to come. I packed up the radio and went downstairs and logged on to the DK cluster to post a couple of details and let the world know we had started operation albeit much earlier than anticipated. Final packing and off to bed for the early start tomorrow.
On our way to Everest
We were staying in lodges en route so we did not have to bring food and cooking equipment but we did have sleeping bags and clothing for the entire 26 day walk up to Everest base camp at 5,500m. It would be cold up there so we had down jackets and all the required warm clothes. The radio gear consisted of the FT-817 that I had added the collins SSb filter, a 1.8 mAH NiMH battery pack and a small speech processor built into the microphone. I had a very small and light switching power supply (100-230V in) to run the radio with AC when we found it. To charge the batteries I also had a 500mw solar panel but we didn’t get much time to use it during the day because the afternoons were cloudy and we were walking in the mornings. Because the power supply could provide over 10 amps intermitant (I knew this because 91SD002 used to run his TS140 on one of them till it got hot and shut down!) I also brought along a small (but heavy) HL50b amplifier from Tokyo Hi power. It could put out up to 50w and had good filtering. On the antenna side I had the miracle whip and a wire dipole with 22′ legs and a 4:1 balun in the center feed with 30′ of RG58 back to an LDG auto tuner that ran off internal 9v batteries. ( I wanted to construct the antenna and feed to tuner from 300 ohm TV ribbon to reduce weight and cable losses but couldn’t find any in Jakarta) Headphones, a mini multimeter, a few meters of hookup wire and a few more for a counterpoise earth and a leatherman pocket knife for repairs completed the gear. All of this was packed into 4 sealable, waterproof plastic boxes and weighed almost 10kg! With my other gear and water my pack weight was about 23kg. Beleive me that is pretty heavy going up hill!
Next morning we were up at four and away to Jiri by 0500 as planned. On the six hour (120km)drive we passed several burnt out trucks which the maoists had torched for defying the travel ban.
Visa to Nepal
Name and passport number erased for security reasons.
Original scan available only for other groups HQ if requested
We had lunch of rice and vegetables in Jiri and shouldered our packs for the 4 hr walk over a small pass to Srivalaya village where we spent the night.
As the next day was a bit harder I decided to employ a porter to carry the pack and the next morning off we went with Dawa carrying the pack. By 10am we were already at the village we had planned to stay so after a brief discussion decided to head on. Dawa was obviously enjoying himself and asked if he could carry the pack to Namche Bazaar another 6 days away. He was hired on the spot. It certainly made the trip much easier for me as all I had to carry was a small pack of about 4kg. The trail to Namche runs parallel to the main Himalaya’s crossing all the rivers and ridges. Every day was up and down but the scenery was beautiful and lodges clean and tidy.
This area was maoist controlled so I did not bring out the radio except to listen to the news on the BBC from inside the room which it picked up very well. Indonesia was heard on 555 but with 2.5w and inside the building I could not get back. The amateur activation from Rodriguez island (3B9C )was coming in on all bands very strongly also but 27mhz was quiet. We ran into a storm going over one pass at 3,500m and got pelted with 1cm hail stones. The weather continued it’s pattern of beautiful clear mornings and clouding in by 2-3 oclock and we continued to walk from 0600 to about 1400 to escape the weather.
After 6 days walking we arrived at Namche Bazaar a sherpa town at 3,450m in the Khumbu region of Nepal.
Tengboche monastry in Khumbu
This is where I had intended to do most of the DXing from but my anticipation soon turned to dismay when I saw the town was encircled almost 90% by 5,00m plus ranges. The only opening was to the south down the valley. I decided to find a suitable lodge as high up as possible in the village that also had AC power in the room. There are about 50 lodges
here and they cost about 1-2 USd per night except for the Everest view at the top which is 100-300 USD per night.
The everest view was high and was the best location but outside my budget. We eventually found a lodge with power and settled in. I errected the dipole as best I could, hooked up the amp and tuner and setled down for a couple of days of DX with 35watts under my belt. I called Billy 91SD002 on the sat phone and told him were we ready.
Everest, Khumbu icefall
By the end of the first day I had worked 173AT127 5/2 and heard 153, 43, 94. It was hopeless. The mountains were absorbing all the signals or conditions were bad I just don’t know. I couldn’t do much with the antenna because there was no means to get it in the air. I hung it from the highest part of the balcony as far away from the building as I could.
The following day was worse (worked 3B9C on 12 meters jst to see if the rado still worked!) so I packed up the excess radio gear and left it in Namche (Just took 817 and miracle whip) to keep the weight in my pack to a minimum and continued up to Gokyo lakes at 5,000m, accross the Cho La pass into the Everest region and up to Kala Pattar and Everest Base Camp.
Everest base camp
Although we were high the mountains around us were higher still and all signals were greatly muted. It began to snow as we left Everest Base Camp and it continued to snow off and on as we descended back down to Namche Bazaar over the next 4 days.
A yak in the snow
It was good to be back down at elevations where we could breathe more freely. We then caught a plane back to Kathmandu from the airport in Luckla.
On arrival at the hotel I requested a room on the top floor and in a few hours had the dipole slung between the overflow pipes of the hot water system tanks on the roof and was calling DX.
Un beknown to me I had slung the antenna so it was broadside to Australia so I wasn’t doing Europe any favours there! stations on the whole were quite weak but I was usually able to work anything I could hear after a few calls with my 50w or so. I had the rest of that day and two more to work DX which I did most of the day. I was able to work about 70 stations in that time.
I would have liked to have worked more stations but the conditions were just not there at those times. I will go back and activate 86 div again but will dedicate it to working DX with no trekking and bring dedicated 11m antennas. Probably a 1/2 wave vertical on top of a 3 element yagi. I will also move further south to get away from the mountains.
Listen out for 86 div when the sunspot cycle starts to improve once more. In the meantime 91SD218 (91dd018) will continue to be on the air in Jakarta.