A Snowshoe Trek Across the Ice Shelf for a Late Year POTA Activation

We had a lot of snow over the Christmas weekend but I wanted to get out and do one last POTA activation before the end of 2022. I chose VE-5651 Hibou Conservation Area near my hometown of Owen Sound, Ontario.

Hibou Conservation Area in Summer

Hibou Conservation Area sits along the shore of Georgian Bay and is a popular beach destination in summer. On 28th December 2022 it was completely deserted – apart from this one hardy ham. The gates are closed for the season but the sign at the gate welcomes walk-ins and that makes it a valid activation site.

First: Summit Mount Snowplow!

I parked my truck outside the gate, put on my snowshoes (the park is unplowed and had a lot of snow) then hauled out my “radio sled”, loaded up my radio backpack and set off. The first challenge was getting over “Mount Snowplow” at the side of road, but the sled was up to the task. Then I began the long slow trek across the snow to my operating position – an open-air pavilion at the edge of the lake.

I have recently joined a group called the Polar Bear QRP Club (you can find them on groups.io). This group operates only during the winter months – and always outdoors! They have their own lexicon and refer to anywhere outdoors during the winter months as “the ice shelf”. I have actually walked on a real ice shelf in the Canadian High Arctic at Resolute Bay, Nunavut, but this is a fun activity so I am willing to go along with this lighthearted exaggeration.

It was hard work pulling the sled across the snow because other park users had created a criss-cross matrix of trails through the soft new snow. I tried to steer onto undisturbed snow once I got away from the park entrance and that made the going a little easier.

Resolute Bay, Nunavut – in Summer!

I set up my station inside the pavilion with a coax leading out to the antenna mounted directly on the sled. The antenna was an MFJ-1979 telescopic 17ft whip with four 10ft long radials laid on the snow. I wasn’t sure whether the dielectric effect of the snow would defeat the function of the radials, but they did a fine job.


I self-spotted at pota.app then started calling CQ. After three CQ calls the inevitable pile-up started and I made the required minimum 10 QSOs in just eight minutes – a new record for me. The temperature was a balmy +2 degrees Celsius but the breeze coming off the lake felt quite cold. After about 20 QSOs my keying became a little erratic as my fingers stiffened from the cold. When things quietened down after 24 QSOs I called QRT and bravely fled the scene for the warmth of home.

Because it is Hard!

POTA activations are a very rewarding ham activity; it is very enjoyable to set up and wait for the rush of eager hunters to come calling. And trekking across the snow, pulling a sled full of radio equipment, then operating under a cold winter sky, certainly makes the activation more rewarding than activating from my “shack-in-a-truck”. I could have operated inside the nice, warm truck from the roadside and still been inside the park boundary, but to paraphrase President John F. Kennedy: “we choose to do this not because it is easy, but because it is hard”.

I also made this activation a “training session” for the Polar Bear QRP Club’s Moonlight Madness Event on January 7th. Maybe I’ll write a post about that too after it happens – if I survive!

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