KL7RA and the North Pole Contest Group 1978 to the present brief history
The North Pole Contest Group was started in 1978 by a small local group of contesters that saw the propagation improve in Fairbanks, Alaska as we headed to the next peak. Our though was if a multi-multi station was possible in the near Arctic above 63 degrees north now would be a good time to try and build it.
The first contest as multi-multi was at my house near the Chena river close to the airport. I had three towers up, one 90 foot with a Wilson 5 element 20. A second at 75 feet with a Tribander and a 2 element 40. The third had a KLM 5 element ten meter by itself to get some distance from 20.
The four stations were spread out throughout the house, one in the kitchen and one in a kid’s bedroom, one in the downstairs living room and one in the hamshack. We had an intercom to each station along with full computer support in another kid’s bedroom where we duped the paper logs as they were turned in.
This was really fun but obviously it was never going to work as is. I knew my family was never going to share their home with a bunch of hams during a contest so the original plan was to move the NPCG station and crew to the property of KL7HR located some 20 miles south of Fairbanks that summer which we did. Four towers went up with large KLM monobanders and wires for 80 and 160. Lloyd, AL7CQ now K5ZO is a carpenter and he did the design and construction of the building for the station.
This was the home of the NPCG for about a year of contesting but again it was also obvious this was not going to work for very long. The neighbors had speed dial to the police due to TVI and a clear channel AM station was so close that it caused a lot of IMD in the radios. It was also clear that hams in the hills north of us by 25 miles could work USA earlier on both 10 and 15 meters. Time to move again.
North of Fox, Alaska was a very high hill with power and a road. No houses within miles, with a clear horizon in all directions. It also had a very steep roll off to the Pacific, Asia and the USA. The perfect contest radio location for the NPCG, dead quiet and we were loud. I had an old 30 foot communications van hauled up and Lloyd build the six station bench with five feet per band. Four towers held the monobanders. This was a true work in progress as we were in a constant state of repair, once losing seven yagis in one ice/wind storm.
It was all worth it as we were loud and often working stations no one else in town could hear. This ran from 1981 to 1986 usually hosting seven or more contests a year. There was some risk as you could be all alone for a single op with just your radio, the wind and wolves. Often at 40 below or colder and a snow machine outside that may or may not start. The multi-mulit contests required the road to be plowed which was expensive and even with chains across the road and no trespassing signs we often found people up there during the summer. Once I found someone on a tower, no safety belt, taking pictures of Fairbanks in the distance. When the lease ran out it was time for the NPCG to move again.
I found property on a small hill east of Fairbanks near Two Rivers famous for the dog racing kennels with few neighbors. To try and recover the loud signal we had from the Fox hill top we went to very high towers with multiple Yagi stacks which ended up being seven towers from 190 feet to 100 with 21 yagis.
The contest station was in a building beside my home. Lloyd and I started the project by pouring five tower bases mid June and the last antenna, a Telrex 40 meter Yagi went into place at the first snow fall in September. NPCG operated many contests a year from this QTH from 1986 to 2004 and with a large number of operators over the 18 years.
The last, so far, property search for the NPCG started in the summer of 2003. I was scheduled to retire that December and I wanted to move to the Kenai peninsula where the propagation was much better then Fairbanks which was directly under the aurora with winter E’s that shut down the 80 meter band. Often we would find the bands silent when the south central Alaskan stations still had rate. But now moving this station was not trivial and the property had to be worth the move, time and money.
It took a year. One really long year going down most weekends often looking at a dozen listings or so. Even in Alaska on the Kenai peninsula where just about everything is for sale it still took a long time to find the perfect property. I was looking for a steep hill top, saltwater and few if any neighbors. When the agent called and said this is the place I was doubtful but I was in full panic to get back to her office to buy it once I did finally get up to that hill top and look around.
This was raw property which required a really long road to get up to the top of the hill where they carved into it to come around the top. Five 26 foot truck loads was required to get all the hardware to the Kenai after a year of taking it all down with help from Wigi, AL7IF and Larry, N1TX who showed up most weekends to help. A water well, septic, underground utilities and building a house plus a constant flow of “wife” disruptions as she wanted house stuff done when we had contest station stuff to do added another year. A major winter storm that destroyed most of the antennas added yet another year.
KL7RA and the North Pole Contest Group since 1978 to the present now hosts about 20 contests a year with operators from around the world on all bands and modes.
73 Rich, KL7RA thanks for the contest Q’s these past years.
On November 20, 2015, Rich, KL7RA passed away. The North Pole Contest Group was assigned his callsign In Memoriam.