Saturday, August 30, 2014

Mount Rosa, Completed

This was an Epic Hike. I was joined by Steve, wG0AT and Peanut for this one. I am glad Steve and Peanut re-arranged their schedules to join me. It was a grueling, long, tough hike but well worth it. The trail was not crowded like it normally is (at least up to Saint Mary's Falls) and we only ran into two couples and one young lady the whole day. One couple was heading to Saint Mary's Falls while everyone else we saw was seeking the same thrill as we were and that was the summit of Mount Rosa.

I thought we would have to call this off as they are still repairing the flood damage to the parking area but the news report said cars could park in the Helen Hunt Falls parking lot which is what we did. That required us to hike about .5 miles up to the regular parking lot and then another 1.5 miles to the actual trail head.

Our hike was 14.4 miles, took us 11 hours and 57 minutes and we had an elevation gain of 5452 feet. The elevation at the parking lot was 7239 feet and the summit is 11,500 feet. I do not think I looked at the elevation on the GPS until we had about 1000 feet to go.

The trail is well marked (although we did miss the Mt Rosa sign and visited the Falls by accident) until you get to the gate. You will want to go towards Mt Rosa which is to the left but you actually go to the right and look for the rock markers and a few meters down the trail you will see the 672 sign. Soon after you get to the saddle and it is a nice walk to the base of the summit and another 500 vertical feet.

As soon as we got on the trail proper Steve decided to set a new fashion trend and wear his broke sunglasses. After a while I did not notice it anymore. I am sure it was an odd sight for the people we met along the trail.
One Eyed Old Goat
The views from Rosa are worth it and I wish we had more time to enjoy them but it took us 7 hours to summit and about 4 hours to descend. I thought we may be hiking in the rain and dark but we made it with a few minutes of daylight left.

The weather was fine until we were on the summit, rain, hail, thunder and lightning but not much wind. When the hail started it felt like the temp dropped 20 degrees and I started to look for my gloves but after the sun came back out it was a pleasant 60 degrees again.

GPS track
APRS Beacon
After doing a firmware upload to me Kenwood TH-D72 it seems it is working better with the APRS function. I was glad to se that. The Kenwood is a little heavy to carry all the time but the APRS function and limited email and text capability without Internet connection make it one great survival tool. Once we were near Saint Mary's Falls anyone could have tracked us.

Steve and I chatted a lot while Peanut just kept us moving along. Lesson Learned, never let Peanut set the pace.

Peanut waiting for the weak humans

Mount Rosa, Steve and Peanut
Once we got on the saddle and saw Mount Rosa I was elated. This is also where the short trail comes up from Capt Jacks Frosty Park or whatever it is called accessed via Old Stage Road. Old Stage Road opened a few hours before we summited after being closed for a year for repairs. When we heard gun fire we knew that Old Stage Road was officially re-opened.

We could see the clouds forming and knew our time would be limited but you do not hike 8 hours and not try to activate. I got the end fed up and set the link for 30 meters, pulled out the new MTR II and fired it up with a 9 volt battery and called CQ SOTA at 2 watts and soon I was picked up by the Reverse Beacon Network and those that I could hear I worked until the pill up subsided. That was only 6 QSOs but only 4 are needed for the 6 points this summit is worth so that was good.

New MTR version 2 (three bands: 40, 30 and 20)
After 30 meters it was Steve's turn on 20 meters but the storm moved over quicker than we thought so we covered everything and hunkered down waiting for the hail and rain to stop. There was not an electrical component to the storm at that time so it was just a nuisance more than anything else.

After the storm Steve pulled out his KX3 and went to work on 20 meter SSB. About this time the lightning started and I started to pack getting ready to run down the mountain at a moments notice. Steve kept his cool and worked through the pileup with the last station being Guy, N7UN. We had to pull the plug early so I apologize to any chasers we left hanging but safety was an issue.

We hastily packed up and headed off the summit. It rained on us off and on the whole way down.

I have never been that exhausted after an activation. It was brutal. I marveled at the young couple that passed us and a young lady named Hannah that appeared energetic and unaffected by the difficult hike. Amazing!

Thanks chasers. It was a good test for the new MTR. I love a radio that can run off a 9 volt battery.

The fun of SOTA for me is the outdoors, minimalist radio, 9 volt battery and simple wire antenna and the pileup that ensues for that setup. What fun. Thanks Chasers.

Check out wG0AT's videos here: goat hiker

My Mount Rosa video is here:

Peanut meditates on the summit


Monday, August 25, 2014

Planning to attack Mount Rosa, AGAIN!!!! (and some ramblings)

I was thinking about a few summits for this Friday since I have off from work and I keep coming back to Mount Rosa. Lynn and I started up that trail twice, the first time we were not committed to a summit attempt and the second time Lynn got sick and it turned out to be the beginning of a week long illness that had us in the Emergency Room. I am just glad she was able to make it back to the car. She did 6 miles, sick!!!!!

Well, Lynn does not want much to do with that summit again. At least not from the East side approach. The West side approach is relatively easy, a couple of miles and maybe 1,500 foot legation gain. Not so from the East, it is 12 to 13 miles round trip and 4,000 elevation gain. I need to know if I can do it so I will attempt it on Friday.

I hope to have my APRS beacon on (K0JQZ-7) so I can be tracked and hopefully I will be able to talk to a few locals on 146.520 on the way up. Weather is a factor so we will see how it goes. If I make it I have the reward of every SOTA hike with a view to kill for and if not I hope I am only turned back due to weather and not something else. I am figuring 5 to 6 hours to summit and hope to be at the Trail Head at 0600.

Lynn and I have been busy doing some SOTA summits and I have not done any videos and have not taken many pictures. I was just in one of those moods where I did not feel like coming home and spending hours trying to make another movie. I do think it is important to make those videos to promote SOTA and SOTA in Colorado but it is somewhat liberating to come home, upload the logbook and just chill. Do not get me wrong, I like making the videos but I am just taking a break.

Lynn has taken a few pictures and I found a few from summits past and I might as well share these with you all.

Here is a pic of our older cat Mayv who is wanting attention before another SOTA hike.

Not sure where this was from but that was a good size bee on my backpack. He was not aggressive, just checking things out.


This is a bird of prey (hawk maybe) and I watched this bird circle and hunt for about 20 minutes and tried to get several shots thinking that I did not get one until I got home. This was one of the few times that he was actually above me at over 10,000 feet.

Bird of Prey
I have been using my Buddipole Vertical almost exclusively and this is what happens on windy summits in 25 degree windchill. Stuff starts to come apart. I think I have it fixed now.

Buddipole parts
A few pictures from Monarch Ridge.

Buddipole and walking stick counterpoise support ready for work
The views from our ham shack
Lynn operating
I think my antenna is bigger, er closer....
Lynn enjoying the tram ride up rather than the grueling hike.

All smiles
Not sure where this one was taken but Lynn's radio, the KX3 and some other equipment. The Elecraft KX3 is such a great radio. It far surpasses anything out there in performance, power consumption, weight to capability ratio and the most important thing, functionality/ergonomics. I am a fan and am glad Lynn lets me use hers from time to time.

Here I am on a summit trying to figure out how to fix a broke antenna.... there is a little Macgyver in all of us.

These next photos are from Mount Evans today, 25 Aug 2014. I watched the weather move in as Lynn activated and it was not soon after my turn began that the skies opened up. Of course at over 14K feet you seldom get rain so we got a snow hail mix and I kept going as long as I could. It did start to get very cold (it was in the high 30s when we drove up). We had the perfect spot just North of the parking lot in-between a few rocks out of the wind. If we had been exposed this would have been a no-go activation. No electrical component to this storm or that would had been a no-go as well.

Trying to think above 14K feet and send code
Todays activation on Mount Evans went well. When I checked the SSB freqs, the 20 meter band seemed crowded so I had Lynn move to 14.343 and Phil NS7P was right there and spotted her. That really helped. There are a few operators that really make an activation go well and seem to understand what is going on with the activator as he or she battles weather, high altitude impairment, curious on-lookers and the other things that distract an activator while trying to keep the pileup under control. I would like to say thanks to:

There are others but these are the stations to come to mind as I type this. No awards just thanks.

Back to Mount Rosa. I will try to go light weight and will take a newly constructed MTR II (powered by a 9 volt battery, pico paddles, speaker), a linked EFHW, 200hz audio filter, recorder, go pro, 3 liters of water, food, warm gear and rain gear. I will also have a 2 meter radio, cell phone, topo map and compass and my GPS. There are other things I will take but I may or may not post a complete inventory. I am real excited about this adventure!


Sunday, August 17, 2014

US Northern Command MARS (Military Auxiliary Radio System) Testing/Training

I am a Cyberspace Operations Planner in the USNORTHCOM and NORAD Operations Directorate (J3). Most days my job is very boring but sometimes you get to do something cool. Although my definition of "cool" may differ from yours. In addition to an office hike up Mount Herman I thought it would be a good time to demonstrate the deployable US Northern Command M.A.R.S. Station. The icing on the cake is Lynn, KC0YQF, was able to join us and was on hand to make sure I used the KX3 correctly.

Our command is licensed under Army M.A.R.S. with the call sign AAM8N and is the brainchild of Mark, WA6MVT. Mark is about as enthusiastic an Amateur and Communicator there is. He was unable to make our training but he will make it up in the future.

Our office is composed of operational planners not communicators so we would not be the ones deploying with this equipment save Mark and I. Of course what makes M.A.R.S. different from other forms of military and civilian communications is the amateur radio licensing requirements. If you want to know more about Army M.A.R.S. they are under NetCom and here is a link: Army Mars

Incidentally I have been licensed and a participant of Navy US Marine Corps M.A.R.S. at Camp Lejeune, NC and United States Air Force M.A.R.S. during most of my career in the USAF. This is my first time with Army M.A.R.S.

Our M.A.R.S. station consist of an Elecraft KX3 modified for M.A.R.S. frequencies (incidentally, it is the only radio that met all requirements), Buddipole A123 battery source and a Buddipole Antenna system. We did not have the Buddipole Antenna along on this demo as I wanted to show that it is possible to reach out and touch the far reaches of the country with a simple wire antenna without any support infrastructure. While my buddipole vertical is setup for this type of work (see some of my videos on my youtube channel) I did not feel like hauling out the commands system for this training.

USNORTHCOM and NORAD J3 Cyber Planners (and Scout)
Bill and I discuss how to install the End Fed
Explaining propagation
My plan was to actually check into a MARS Net but I was thinking on the way up that a SSB Summits On The Air activation would yield a more impressive capability demonstration. I do not have to explain to the regular readers of my blog how SOTA is the epitome of agile and viable communications but from the layman perspective it helps to be able to listen to an actual pileup of stations across the country calling.

Using my call sign we talked to other Amateurs in the following states in about 10 minutes:

North Carolina
British Columbia

I think that shows the viability of the commands deployable MARS Station. Now if we could only convince them that a stations is needed at Headquarters with remote capability from other areas.

USNORTHCOM Mr. Potato Head ensuring fun was had by all
A fun Video:

As we grow this capability I hope to do more informative videos on net procedures, winlink, ALE and other forms of data communications. My goal is not to convince anyone to join MARS but more to just be aware of the capability and how it fits in a disaster response. 

73 Frank

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Lynn's Birthday SOTA Activation

For Lynn's birthday we decided to do Traychte Knob near the KOA in Cripple Creek Colorado. I have never been impressed with this KOA, as far as KOAs go, but it is under new management and I am confident that it will thrive in the future. The great thing about this KOA is a gate that leds to a trail head of  a Horse Trail around Traychte Knob and that I have followed the three times I have activated this summit. After a few hundred feet on the trail it is a bushwack to the top.

We decided to get an early start to beat the afternoon storms that are comng earlier everyday. We ate breakfast on the trail and took a nice break to enjoy the views. While this is not a long hike it does get a little steep in places and total elevation gain is about 800 feet or so.

Cloud Cover

Summit in view
Te hardest part is the boulder field near the summit. There is a false summit that I managed to avoid this time but I think we had to tackle more of the boulder field. Once on the top the views are great and we enjoyed a leisurly activation while checking the clouds building to our East.

Mushrooms everywhere
Lynn worked the folowing stations on 20 meter SSB and many wished her a happy birthday which made her happy:


KC0YQF, Lynn, working the SSB pileup

I was able to snag Guy, N7UN using callsign NS0TA on W0C/PR-031 while he was running a CW pileup then I moved up in freq clear from him to start our CW portion of this activation. I worked the following stations:

NS0TA Summit to Summit

Unfortunately I had about 20 minutes of video I wanted to use that I was unable to use due to technical issues. In other words I thought I was recording but actually wasn't. At over 10,000 feet in altitude my brain cannot process all the gadgets beeping at me so I am sure I missed a beep and was not recording.

I highly recommend this summit because there is never anyone else on it but that being said someone decided to post their underwear for all to see, for some reason.

Not sure why someone would want to fly their skivvies (someone in the Navy perhaps)

Here is a video of our activation:

73 Frank

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Chief and Squaw Mountain SOTA Activation 25 July 2014

Chief and Squaw are two summits I have wanted to get back to since wG0AT took me out there last year. My thinking was that Lynn would really enjoy these two summits. The summit of Chief Mountain is just neat with a lot to explore and Squaw Mountain has a Fire Tower which I thought Lynn would really like. In the past, Steve and I did both summits but not on the same day, mainly because of my abilities not Steve's.  I was cautious about tackling these two in one day.

dedication plaque on Squaw Mountain

K0JQZ on Squaw Mountain
K0JQz and KC0YQF on Chief Mountain
our route in white

The video at the end of this post really tells the story but a few things. I have been doing this blog for a year this month and have had over 20,000 hits. That is not much to some people but a lot for me as most of my post are ramblings and I am not really doing any "DIY" post. I appreciate everyone that stops in and takes a look and leaves comments. I am really appreciative to the youtubers that subscribe to my youtube channel. That is something I did not think I would like doing but it is a lot of fun.

When we got up to Chief Mountain summit we enjoyed the views and setup the End Fed antenna in short order. We chatted with a few other people on the summit. This summit is big and has a lot of places to setup an antenna and station.

When I got the antenna hooked up I heard another station on a different summit so in my excitement I called him to get the Summit to Summit QSO and forgot our summit reference number so I had to dig through my pack to find that and I handed the mic to Lynn so she could get the S2S QSO as well. Summit to Summit QSOs are a special thrill because another ham has hiked a mountain and setup a station just like you did at the same time. What fun. Thanks KY7S for your patience with us.

In my excitment I also forgot to hit the record button on the audio recorder. Not the first or last time that will happen. I think Lynn's new job will be to remind me to hit record.

When we got back to the TH for Chief we had a decision to make. Do we go right and hope to hit the road that goes up Squaw (my GPS and topo map showed that the trail and road did intersected).  Or do we go left back to the Jeep and drive back to the Squaw Mountain trail and up the road a ways. We decided to go right. I am glad we did. It reality shows how much Lynn and I have improved and the fact that we were able to do both summits and 9 miles in one outing really pleased us.

The Fire Tower on Squaw Mountain came be rented and we decided to rent it next year for Lynn's BDay. We will have to haul food, water, bedding etc up to the fire tower a little less than a mile on a steep road but I think we can do it. I scoped out the area thinking about the antennas I can setup and we can do a multi day SOTA outing on Squaw with multiple antennas and shelter. Plus the cool factor of staying up there over night. We are looking forward to it.

We are grateful for the young couple that rented the Fire Tower for letting us setup on the bench and letting us shelter the from the hail and rain in Fire Tower itself.

About a mile from the Jeep the skies opened up and we donned our rain gear and kept going. I talked to Lynn about it and told her that if we had a long way to go or were out overnight that I would have setup a shelter and waited it out. Storms in Colorado come and go quickly and it was not soon after we got to the Jeep that it stopped raining. Rain, Hail, Thunder and Lightning along with great views and no extreme temperatures plus a few Summit to Summit QSOs. A lot of fun was had.

The next day we relaxed and went to the local Hamfest in Colorado Springs. It is not a very big  hamfest and does not offer a lot but I got to run into a few old friends and even my boss from the early 90s when I worked at HQ Air Force Space Command.