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Hollyburn Mountain, BC, Canada

VE7QIN's picture
Voice Cellular Coverage: 
Decent, workable
Data Cellular Coverage: 
Decent, workable
Cellular Provider: 
APRS Coverage: 
Don't know

After my first activation on Black Mountain VE7/GV-013 a week ago, I wanted another activation before the rain season starts. I chose Hollyburn Mountain VE7/GV-011 because it seemed just a little more difficult than GV-013. An extra 100m gain shouldn't be too much, right? It turned out that the challenge of Hollyburn Mountain GV-011 isn't quite about cardio which I worried about.

Located in the southern part of Cypress Provincial Park, Hollyburn Mountain also shares the same radio properties that Black Mountain has: high enough to cover large metropolitan areas with line-of-sight frequencies.

The Hollyburn Mountain Trail is rated as "challenging" by the brochure obtainable from Black Mountain Lodge. The brochure says the Hollyburn Mountain Trail is an 8.0km (5miles) round-trip with 430m (1400ft) elevation gain, averaging 4 hours. At first I thought the "challenging" rating for Hollyburn compared to the "moderate" rating for Black Mountain was just because of the higher elevation and longer route, but it's different.

The trail starts from the parking area near snowshoe rental building, separate from the main ski building group. The first section is on the Powerline Access Road for about 1.1 km. I went too fast for the first half of the section and had to catch my breath for a moment. But I did see running groups doing their training here.

There's a pole with directions on it where you need to turn north onto the Baden-Powell Trail. The first part isn't steep. It's easy to keep it at a comfortable speed. At the intersection, where Baden-Powell Trail goes back to the main buildings of the ski resort, turn northeast onto Hollyburn Peak trail.

Further uphill, there are some challenges: not only does the trail get steeper, but there are sections that aren't purposely designed for simple walking. One section has continuous smooth, convex curved rocks that can be very slippery if the hiker isn't wearing proper hiking shoes, or if the shoes have mud under them. There are lots of natural stairs that require high steps, but there are not many of them occurring continuously in a very short distance. So it's more about stretching rather than cardio.

One particular challenge is the short section that requires walking on a two feet (just less than a meter) wide rock trail along a cliff for a few meters. It's not really dangerous but rather a test of courage. I don't have too much courage so I held onto solid rocks on the wall side while going through this section.

Almost immediately follows is another challenging section where several 1m (3ft) tall rocks need to be climbed continuously. It's just like big stairs, but for people like me, who aren't trained in climbing, the best solution is getting hands dirty. As long as the objects held onto are not lose rock, rotten dead wood, or thin grass, it's ok.

Several small streams need to be crossed, but none involved getting a foot entirely into water on my trip. This may change if there's heavy rain.


At the top, the real peak is a big rock. Around the rock there is plenty of flat area for ham operations. Several trees are available for hanging wires. For me, however, the Slim-Jim did not work. I tried it once on a half-dead tree but the signal didn't get easily through other trees surrounding the area: it rained in the two days prior to my activation so all the trees were pretty wet, including the one I hang my Slim-Jim onto. I suppose the water on the antenna tree detuned the antenna and other trees absorbed much of the remaining signal. I didn't bother to try other trees but pulled out my Arrow II antenna. Immediately I got a ground contact and then a summit to summit with VA7NX operating on Vedder Peak VE7/FV-028, 90km away.

Since VA7NX was on 146.520, I yielded by switching to 146.535. I stayed there for a while but could not get a contact. Then I went back to 146.520 to get 5 more contacts.

7 contacts in half an hour, the contacts/time rate was exactly the same as my previous activation on Black Mountain, which I got 14 contacts in 1 hour.

But this day on Hollyburn Mountain, I could not operate any longer. The temperature on the peak was at or slightly below freezing point as I saw some ice on the way up. Wind was strong, but I could not stay on the leeward side because I wanted to point my antenna southeast. I could not put gloves on my right hand because I needed to write down the contacts. After the half hour operation my fingers were so cold that I could not tell whether I pressed down the push-to-talk button by feel. So I stopped.


Getting back down was NOT easy, if not more difficult than climbing up on Hollyburn. The sections that involved "hands on the ground" on the way up for me involved getting butt on the ground on the way down, many times voluntarily, and at least twice involuntarily. Mud under the boots is dangerous. Once done with the butt on the rocks section, trekking poles became useful because they reduce stress on my knees and at one time they saved me from hugging a shallow pond.

It took me 2.5 hours to get from parking to peak, and same 2.5 hours to get from peak to parking.

It is also easy to get lost at several places. If both sides look like a trail, look for orange markings on the trees or stripes tied onto bush branches, which mark the correct direction.


To a bare minimum, this mountain requires proper shoes. For the duration and difficulty getting down, I'd strongly recommend carrying everything on the 10-essentials list, especially on a day with expected deteriorating weather. Trekking poles and gloves are also useful.


Nonetheless, it was a fun trip which taught me that every mountain is different, even if they are very close to one another.

Now the rain season has arrived, I may have to revert to my usual all-indoor routines. But when there's a fair weather weekend, I probably will try SOTA activation again.