Thursday, January 30, 2014

SOTA Activation of Thunder Butte (W0/FR-048 by K0JQZ and wG0AT on 29 Jan 2014

As I write this, the day after our activation, I am still a little stiff. It was a very nice hike but snow, wind, cold and altitude takes its toll.

A special thanks to George, KX0R, for the outstanding directions on the TH and route and of course to Steve for actually navigating us to the summit with ease.

I did not have to twist the Old Goats arm that much to get him to join me on a middle of the week SOTA activation so I knew we were in for a good time!

Thunder Butte W0/FR-048
Great Hike!!!
Steve checks on my progress
Great Views

Still some more "up" to go
K0JQZ on the way up (Photo by wG0AT)
Where did the sun go?
Steve sets up the video feed
I decided to bring the ATS4b and the linked dipole. If you not a regular reader of my blog I did a writeup on some SOTA antennas I use. This antenna is a linked dipole that is tuned for 40, 30, 20 and 15 meters so no tuner is required. The down side is it requires coax (RG-174) and dipoles are always a little more difficult to setup than an EF. However, it is a good performer.

The rig! (Steve Weber Designed ATS4b)
Neat clouds with Pikes Peak in the distance
I always forget something and this time it was the support pole for the center of the dipole. I was not able to get the dipole to the proper height and only had it about 10 to 15 feet above us at the apex so I did not expect much. I had all the links connected so it was setup for 15 meters so that is where I started the activation. I was pleasantly surprised that 1) that RBN picked me up and 2) the band was open. I worked the following stations on 21.060MHz in short order:


NS7P
W4DOW
N7UN
KF4MH
N4EX
WA2USA
WA4AN
N7NEW
WD4EXI
KG3W
K6BHH

I was getting good signal reports so my doubts about the antenna quickly disappeared. I took a link out so the antenna was setup for 20 meters and Steve had a great pileup going. Near the end of the activation we kept hearing a very weak station calling and it turned out to be John, W9FHA. John was at ESP levels at times and Steve did a great job picking him out. John was complaining about the hot weather down in Florida hi hi.

Without the sun providing us with warmth and the wind the cold getting the better of us it was time to head down. I usually pack so everything is ready to go for the next activation but I got sloppy and just threw stuff in my pack as I was in a hurry to start moving so I would warm up. We warmed up in short order and had a nice long hike back to the goat wagon. I was lucky that in my haste I did not leave anything on the summit.

It felt like the trail back got a lot longer but I think walking through the deep snow just got to us. 

We were both impressed with this summit and plan to do it again. I think I will take Lynn out here next summer as she will enjoy a little rock scrambling near the summit.

Thanks chasers.

Here is Steve's Video of our activation:



72
Frank
K0JQZ

Sunday, January 26, 2014

SOTA Activation of Signal Butte W0/FR-165 26 Jan 2014

This will be a short post but I wanted to say thanks to all the chasers today.

When Lynn and I left the house it was around 35 degrees F and two hours later we made it to the TH and it was 37 degrees F. We stopped for Breakfast and took our time today hoping for more of a temp ride than 2 degrees LOL. I thought I would post an alert while at Denny's but ended up posting a spot (not the first time I did that). I hope I did not cause any confusion and I deleted it as soon as I realized my mistake. Since we were getting such a late start I figured we would not summit until after 1200 local and I was wrong on that as well. We both did very well on the hike. Signal Butte is not long but it is steep in some places.

While the temp was not that cold we felt the wind blowing pretty good making us done our jackets. The good thing is Signal Butte is one of those summits that you can get out of the wind and operate no matter the direction. We were able setup just below the actual summit on the East side and it was very pleasant.

Lynn took the mic after I spotted her and got things rolling on 20 meters SSB. Thanks to the following stations:

K7NEW
KF4MH
N4EX
NS7P
A7DK
W7RV
AJ5C
W0MNA
W0ERI
K9ZMD
N1EU
W5ODS
N7UN
KG7HFI
K7TQ
WA6RIC
KG3W
WA2USA
W5RST
N5XL
W7SY
WN6E

Lynn had a pretty good pileup going and handled it like a seasoned operator. 

Looking North

Lynn on her way up

Out of the wind
KC0YQF working the pileup
I think she has logging down pat
After Lynn got done I started calling CQ on 12 meter CW waiting for the RBN to pick me up which it never did, on any band! We have 3G on this summit which is a recent capability at this location so I decided to check SOTA Spots and it looked like RBN had taken a day off. No matter I spotted myself on 12 meters and had some fun.

12 Meters CW:
K7NEW
WH6LE
N4EX
W4MPS
VA6FUN
N7UN
KG3W
KC3RT 

40 Meter CW:
W7RV
W5ODS 

30 Meter CW:
K6EL
WA6RIC
VE7KBN/W7
WB5USB
K0YO 
K6SSS 
W0MNA
W0ERI
N5XL
K6TUY 

20 Meter CW:
W4AMW
VE2JCW
NE4TN
K6TUY
I do not know what was going on with 30 meters but a TX station kept calling over me. The only thing I could figure is a DX station may had been working split and he was trying to work him. Pretty poor practice but I have been guilty of not remembering I had my split on at least one time in my ham career.

I hope I worked all that was on 30 meters despite the QRM.

K0JQZ working through the pileup on CW with goat paddles
Great Day!!!
A C-130 flew almost level with us but I was working the CW pileup and did not see the approach. He or She came around again but not near us. It is always a special time to have the sound of a C-130 buzz by.
C-130

C-130 again
Thanks chasers for a fun time on the summit today.

Now for the audience participation. I know my little blog does not do as well as some of the others out there but I need help choosing a picture for Lynn's QSL card. Here are the choices number 1 through 3.

Choice 1
Choice 2
Choice 3
Just send me an email with your choice to f_skinner at yahoo dot com. And if any of you photo gurus want to change or manipulate the photo please send that as well. I will entertain any and all ideas.

It is about time Lynn got her own QSL card with her married name on it. I made a few with another picture a while ago and it needs to be updated.

I look forward to your emails.

72
Frank
K0JQZ

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Hot Water 7, first contact!!!!

I picked up a new "old" radio from a friend, W0RW, Paul of HF Pack Fame. I was looking for a HW-8 or HW-7 and after a few unsuccessful bids on ebay I was able to purchase Paul's.

Heathkit HW-7 circa 1973
I did some minor modifications to it and still have a few more to do. Overall I am pleased as it is fun to work on. I have not been able to get a keyer to work with it (HD-1410 and a Cricket 1). I performed the modification in order for it to work with a modern keyed but so far no joy. I used my Dad's straight key with it today as that seemed appropriate.  I added a few LEDs (green ones, after all it is a heathkit) and and just built an Elecraft AF-1 for audio filtering to use with it.

Green LED Glow
I think this speaker is a good match for the little HW-7
The Elecraft AF-1 really works well in the shack but not suited for portable work
Today was the first time I had it on the air. I worked my friend John, N0EVH in MO and Dan K6CAB/5 in TX with about .5 watts on 20 meters using a ground mounted vertical.

I really need to do that following things.
1. Get a keyer to work
2. Replace the clunky TR relay (I wonder if that would solve number 1)
3. Add a RIT as there is no offset
4. Add an INTERNAL audio filter and amp
5. Get rid of the power supply hum

It was a real thrill to use the radio today. My plan is to take it out to a SOTA summit and do a vintage SOTA activation. Of course I plan to use it in the shack from time to time as well and am looking forward to putting it on the air for the ARRL 2015 Straight Key Night.

72
Frank
K0JQZ

SOTA Activation of Blue Mountain W0/SP-123 with KC0YQF and K0JQZ 19 Jan 2014

Lynn and I decided to do Blue Mountain as it is an "easy" one. Well it would had been if I was not leading the way. I remembered the last time we summited this one was with Steve, wG0AT, and we walked up a road a ways then headed to a saddle then South towards the Summit. Well, I could not find the road and am pretty sure I did not park in the same area as the snow was deep. I never got stuck but the Jeep was sliding pretty good.

We took the Frank approach which is usually straight on but I did zig zag a bit and tried to angle our approach to the South. We finally summited but the last 400 feet were brutal. I am sure Lynn was not happy with me.

I found a great spot to setup and a suitable tree to throw an antenna into. I decided to operate first since Lynn was still feeling the pain from the ascent. I found W5ODS on another summit on 20 meters and after I worked him I moved down to 30 meters as to not crowd his activation. Then Elliot found me, K6EL who was also on a summit so that was two Summit to Summit QSOs!!!! I had a real good run on 30 meters. Probably the best I have had on that band to date. 12 meters also yielded some good results.

My log:


30 Meters CW:
AJ5C
KB7HH
W7RV
W0MNA
NS7P
W0ERI
K6TUY
N4MJ
AA5CK
N7WM
KG3W
KA7CVJ
KM5EO
AC4G
KI8R
WK0X
VA6FUN
W7CNL
K6EL  Summit to Summit
NE4TN

12 Meters:
W2LJ
N1EU
AE4FZ
N7UN
N4OA
KK1W

20 Meters CW
W5ODS Summit to Summit
W7CNL
W7TAO
N4EX
EA2LU
W6UB
NA6MG
NK6A
EA2IF
W4IHI
VE7CV
KG3W
AE9F 

After I was done with my run on 30 meters Lynn ran 20 meters SSB. The video is the whole SSB activation and is not edited. The pictures are from this activation.



Thanks Chasers:

20 Meter SSB:
AE4FZ
W0MNA
W0ERI
N1EU
N4EX
ND0C
W4DOW
N7UN
N3GJ
W7CNL
WX4ET
NE4TN
WA2USA
KC3RT
W7TAO
KW6JIM
KH2TJ
N4MJ
VE2JCW
KA5PVB
K7NEW
K6TUY 

It was a near perfect day on the summit. At 1pm it felt much later than it actually was. I guess we were both pretty beat. It was a great activation!

72
Frank
K0JQZ


Sunday, January 19, 2014

"A couple of Old Goats" or "wG0AT and K0JQZ activate Knights Peak W0/FR-144 17 Jan 2014"

It has been a while since Steve and I got out together to do a SOTA activation. I was really looking forward to it and it would turn out to be a great adventure.

Change is in the air, we did something we do not usually do, we agreed on a meeting time and place the day before instead of minutes before. Steve and I met at the Denny's in Woodland Park Colorado and I was treated to a great breakfast and conversation. It is here we decided on Peak 10650 and I posted an alert on SOTA Watch for the same. Soon after we had Steve's gear loaded into the SOTA Jeep (The Goat Wagon sat this one out) and headed to our destination of 10650 or W0/FR-140.

The area was heavily damaged by the floods after the fires these last few years. In fact, access from Colorado Springs is still closed so we went around to the Cripple Creek side and entered from the West. It makes for a long drive but the plus side is that we will have some summer time summits to activate close to home when the roads open up again.

I knew there was an access road to 10650 but I was unable to find it the last time I was on that road. Steve was able to find 10650 and the access road but the snow plow had made it impassible. There was no way to get close to the makeshift TH so onward to the next summit which was was Knights Peak (W0/FR-144). Knights Peak appears to be the only accessible SOTA summit in this area. The other SOTA summits are Almagre,  Mount Rosa, Cheyenne Mountain, 9410, 10650 and a few others.

Cheyenne Mountain from Knights Peak
Mount Rosa from Knights Peak
Almagre from Knights Peak
Knights Peak
Knights Peak looks like a easy summit. In fact it looks like you can just walk up the side. Well, I guess that is what we did but that side gets steep not to soon after you start the bushwhack. The 2 feet of snow in some spots made it more of a challenge so Steve navigated us through the brush instead of the clearings due to snow pack which was a wise move.

Steve quickly moved ahead of me and I followed his trail up to the top. There was a couple of moves that Steve made near the top that I thought he might have some Mountain Goat in him because I just looked at the trail and shook my head and looked for another way. I finally summited and we started to get setup.

It was actually pretty pleasant on the top and my temp gauge said 34 degrees. Without the wind it was down right comfortable. However, the wind would come and go reminding us what it can do.

We setup my EFHW for 20 and 30 meters and used my MTR. We would had used Steve's MTR or ATS4 but I have BNC connectors on mine while Steve has a RCA jack so lesson learned. Between us we had three HF radios, two antennas some batteries and I think no less than four audio recording devices. I had a good laugh at that one but Steve is always prepared.

My weapon of choice
Goat Paddles!!
Goat Paddles in action (photo by wG0AT)
K0JQZ using the Goat Paddles in the pileup (photo by wG0AT)
wG0AT finds yet another audio recorder
Great views
Steve at work
wG0AT running the pileup
K0JQZ and wG0AT on the summit (I was playing with a walking stick camera setup)
wG0AT and the Mountain Topping Radio

USAF Approved Mountain Topping Radio
I was a little disappointed that we could not self spot or change the alert so I apologize for any confusion. I know I sent our Ref number several times but perhaps I should have sent it more often. I doubt that would had made a difference. I was also surprised to see that we did not get picked up on RBN until near the end of my run (45 to 50 minutes into our activation). There were no spots on 30 meters although Steve called CQ several times. Perhaps I entered something incorrectly with the alert. With all that said it is possible to have a successful activation without the Internet. 

After the activation:

K0JQZ and Knights Peak in the background (photo by wG0AT)
I did manage to get my throw line throughly wrapped in a tree and it took a bit of effort to get it out. I am glad I did not have to leave it on the summit as trash…. Also, during one of the wind gust, my inflatable sit pad went flying off the summit but we were able to retrieve it on the way down. They do not cost much but they do make an activation more pleasant by not having to sit in snow or on a hard rock. I also fell on the way down but ended up just sliding down to a few feet from Steve on my ass, descending the easy way I guess. The snow was dry but I still got pretty wet. Fortunately that was on the way down.

It was a grand time!

My log from 20 meter CW using the KD1JV designed, K0JQZ built, 20/30 Meter MTR an EFHW.

W7RV
N1EU
W6UB
K6TUY
NS7P
AJ5C
K5WI
WH6LE
K6EL
W0MNA
KG8YT
W0ERI
WA9PWP
W7WM
VE1WT
N4EX
KG3W
N4MJ
N7UN
NE4TN
K7VOE
KB2XX
W4DOW
NK6A
K6SSS
W4AMW 

On the way home I stopped at Lynn's favorite little burrito place (it is actually a BBQ place) to get the only thing on their menu I can eat which is a Egg and Potato Burrito with hot sauce. I have no affiliation with the Smokin Q but if you at the intersection of I-24 and CO 67/5 it is worth checking out.


In other news, Steve made Lynn and new hat to celebrate her achievements as a SOTA activator.

KC0YQF sports new headgear
Horney Goat QRP Adventures


Thanks Chasers

72
Frank
K0JQZ

Saturday, January 18, 2014

"Lynn Tames the Pileup" or SOTA Activation of Mount Herman W0/FR-063 11 Jan 2014

This was our first activation of Mount Herman (SOTA Designator W0/FR-063) this year. Lynn's knee is giving her a lot of trouble so while we cannot do the hard ones I figured maybe it is time for Lynn to learn how to log her QSOs and talk at the same time. Something that all of us have trouble with at some point in time,

It was a great day with mild temps and a light breeze. At the saddle between the North and South Summit we took a break to enjoy the view then pressed on to the South Summit. Our usual spot was right in the wind so we found cover on three sides that worked well. We even had a dry spot to sit.

20 Meters seemed to be pretty dead for a weekend so I thought this would be a short activation but tuning around the band reveled a few signals. I found Lynn a spot on 14.346, handed her the mic and a note pad, (one that I pre-lined to make it easier) and posted a SPOT on SOTA Watch using the SMS function and she was off and running. She stumbled a little at first but had it under control in no time. This gave me time to walk around and take a few pictures and listen to the pileup.
We found a nice spot to operate from
Lynn working the pileup
Lynn worked and logged the following stations on 20 meter SSB:

WA2USA
N1EU
AJ5C
N4EX
WA6RIC
KK1W
WX4ET
W0MNA
W0ERI 
N7UN
NS7P
W7CNL
KF4MH
W7RV
KX7L
W4DOW
N8QNP
VE1WT
WA9EBX
NG0E
NE4TN
KW6JIM
W5ODS
WG0AT
VE2JCW
KG3W
K0LAF
KA5VRR
EA2IF
N4MJ
AA7DK
K6LJU

The call signs in RED are other YLs that called Lynn. I know at least five other YL chasers/activators. I think the percentage of SOTA involved YLs is getting larger and that can only mean good things for SOTA and the ham radio hobby.

Lynn's rig is a KX3 with a A123 Buddipole battery and an EFHW thrown vertical into a tree.

Here is a short video of the activation.

73
Frank
K0JQZ

Thursday, January 2, 2014

SOTA activation of Little Scraggy Peak (W0/FR-059) 2 Jan 14 and a Surprise from the Old Country!!!

First the surprise.

Background: In late Nov the dates of the inaugural "Mighty Mite Weekend", the brainchild of G3CWI, Richard, was announced on the SOTA reflector. The dates were 7 and 8 Dec 2013 with the goal to make as many QSOs from a SOTA summit or to a SOTA summit using a Rock Mite or Rock Mite clone transceiver. Richard even put up an award to the person that published the most interesting account of their activities.

I was pleasantly surprised and humbled when my entry was chosen as the winner but in my mind the accounts of G4ISJ far surpassed mine. You can read about his SOTA Rock Mite activation here: G4ISJ Blogspot

I wanted to do the event but we had an arctic weather front move in and the temps were not favorable for an activation so I was going to call it off but when I exchanged a few emails with Colin, M1BUU, he inspired me to get my little Rock Mite on the air from a summit. He also sent me super secret pics of his home-brew Rock Mite that he sent to G4ISJ.

I will not go into my activation as my accounts are posted here.

Today, on my 52nd birthday, the trophy arrived, great timing Richard.

How cool is that? Thanks Richard.
The Trophy along with my 20 meter RM

That just made my day. Hopefully next year will bring in a few more Rock Mites from the Colonies and other countries as well.

Now, since it is my birthday I get to choose how to use it and of course I wanted to do a SOTA activation. I wanted to go back to Little Scraggy and find the best way to ascend this mountain. After reading KX0R's writeup and studying a topo map I could see were I went wrong. All I had to do was convince Lynn because she knows how bad I screwed that up a few days ago. In my mind that was way back in 2013.

I told her if I could not find a better way we would forgo the ascent and will head to an easier summit close by. (Not as easy as you would think since the floods and fires still have a lot of local summits blocked)
Not the summit but looks scary. We went that way last time.
Remains of hams that failed to summit.
With topo map and KX0R's instructions in hand and GPS turned on we headed out. The TH temp was in the mid 30s so much warmer than yesterday, bonus. As we walked into the valley we picked up some tracks and found a nice little trail. It helped that at least three people before us left tracks in the snow. They were easy to follow and soon we were on the plateau that leads to the summit. Much easier and faster than our last summit on this mountain. I really like this summit and it reminds me of the South Summit of Mount Herman but with more rocks and dead fall.

I believe this may be Green Mountain also a SOTA summit
Neat rock formations
Headed that way
Lynn on top of the world
We found a spot in the AZ that had sun, a good tree to hang the antenna and was dry out of the snow. We setup and immediately the clouds blocked our solar radiation so the jackets and glove came out.

Lynn's favorite way to generate heat, wearing a plastic bag
I would guess it was about 30 degrees on the summit but once the sun came back out it felt like 50 degrees.

I was able to get a spot in (I remembered my iphone this time) and Lynn was rocking and rolling on 20 meters SSB. I am trying to get her to log her own contacts without relying on me and she did a great job. Thanks for everyones patience. Here is her log:

20 Meter SSB:

W0MNA
W0ERI
N4EX
W5QC
W7IV
N7UN
AJ5C
W6UB
W7CNL
KF4MH
AE4FZ
NE4TN
NS7P
WA2USA
KF5J
KH2TJ
KB1RJC
W9FHA (A rare appearance by John on SSB / Old dogs can learn new tricks!!)
KI4SVM
N7AMA
K7NEW

Lynn running the pileup
Frank breaks out the Goat Paddles, time for CW
Here is my log:

20 Meter CW:

W9FHA
K0LAF
K7NEW
WA2USA
K6TUY
VE2JCW
KH2TJ
W7RV
N1EU
N4EX
W4DOW
NS7P
KB2XX
KF5J
W0MNA
W0ERI
N4MJ
KG3W
K6EL
AE4FZ
N7WM
N0EVH
WA4AN

30 Meter CW:

WG0AT
KF5J
K0YO

12 Meter CW:

WH6LE
WG8Y

I tried other bands but no joy. It was a great activation. We were not freezing, no wind and just us on the summit.

Just one thing; there is always one thing! I heard my GPS beep when we got near the actual summit (I thought it beeped a little early). I did not pay it much attention. I use a etrex20 and am very pleased with it as it is not very demanding on batteries. I use it a lot when in unexplored areas and I had 9 way points to guide us back. When we packed up and started to head down I looked at the GPS and it was off. Well that is odd, I turned it back on and it said low batteries and shut down again. Well what do you know. I had just put freshly recharged batteries in there, or so I thought. After retracing our steps through the snow I was confident we did not need it anyway.

I try to use the same size batteries in stuff like the GPS, Camera, lamps etc and remembered that I had a fresh set of batteries in the camera and a spare set just in case. All was saved. We made it back to the SOTA Jeep and drove home. The lesson being, always double check your batteries going out and try to have as many devices that use the same size batteries as you can.

Tomorrow is our last day of vacation then the weekend (looks like bad weather) and Lynn and I are back to work so no more SOTA for a while. Thanks chasers, you really made my birthday a good one.

A lucky man and Lynn

72 Frank
K0JQZ