Sunday, April 24, 2016

Knights Peak (W0C/FR-144)

It has been a rough week for Lynn and I. We had to put down our beloved 21 year old Calico named Mayv last weekend. She is sorely missed. Lynn and I do not have children so she was very much like our child.

Mayv, 1995 - 2016
This was our first SOTA activation in a while. The weather has not been great and there is still a lot of snow in the high country. We attempted Knights Peak a month or so ago and it did not go so well. We were in 3 feet of snow and decided to forgo the activation. Today was not as bad. The snow was deep but it was frozen so, for the most part, we were able to walk on top of it. Of course we did fall through a few times. I did fall through on the way down and was up to my waist and had a hard time getting out of the white stuff. Snowshoes would have been ideal for this ascent.

Knights Peak W0C FR-144
Old Stage road is the road you take from Colorado Springs to get to the base of the mountain and I have never seen it in worse shape. The standing water is re-freezing every night and making new potholes. Some of the potholes are hard to see due to shadows across the road and coupled with the drivers out here 4 wheeling it makes for an adventure in itself. The road is eroding very badly in spots due to run off. I can see it closing again some time this summer.

Once we summited I found a neat geocach and someone had placed several sheets of paper with instructions to "take just one." Here is what the sheet had on it.

I am not sure of the context save the fact that it is a clue to a "super secret" geocach.

Geocaching is just plain fun!

I setup the antenna between the rock we usually setup on (too windy) and the actual summit (too rocky) and settled on a nice flat spot in-between and out of the wind. After the antenna was in the tree and Lynn was ready to go I tired to spot her via cell phone. No dice as this summit is always problematic with cell phones. I had the Kenwood TH72D with me and was getting ready to use it when Phil, NS7P, came booming in. Phil spotted Lynn and she was off working her SSB pileup. Thanks NS7P!!!

I tried to get her to look up but no dice

Lynn worked the following stations on 20 meter SSB despite the QSB:


While Lynn was working through the pileup I took a few pictures of three nearby SOTA summits.

Cheyenne Mountain
Mount Rosa
The reservoir just to the West of Knights Peak is still frozen.

Below is from the SOTA Watch web site and it shows the spots we got today. As you can see NS7P posted a spot for Lynn and Dan, NA6MG, posted a spot for me which is what he said he would do. I did call CQ on 40 meters for several minutes but RBN never picked me up. I am glad chasers like
Phil and Dan were on hand to post a spot for us.

From SOTA Watch
I do not use my APRS much anymore but did on this hike.  I knew the cell phone service sucked on this summit so if anyone was so inclined they could follow us on APRS. 

I may be one of the few that actually watch APRS beacons when activators post their APRS information during summit ascents. 

K0JQZ-7 beacon from the summit
After Dan spotted me the pileup ensued. Here are my QSOs on 20 meter CW.


Knights Peak is a short (less than a mile) hike but it is steep. I forgot my spikes but Lynn remembered hers so she had no problem on the descent. For me it was an exercise in terror. 

Thanks Chasers

Rest in Peace Mayv

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Ormes Peak and Signal Butte

Lynn had off work on Friday so I took a leave day and we went out to see if we could access Ormes Peak. Ormes Peak is pretty close to Colorado Springs but it is quicker to access it via Woodland Park.

We drove to Ormes via Garden of the Gods and about an hour later we were hiking towards the summit. This is not a hard hike but you cannot take a direct approach. You approach from the West and find the saddle and then start a North East approach that takes you up a trail to the summit. In the summer this summit is filled with bugs however, there was still snow on the ground and the temps were mild so no bugs!

Lynn and I both had good pileups with the regular SOTA chasers and a few new ones as well.


America's Mountain from the trail

America's Mountain from the summit of Ormes Peak


K0JQZ on 20 meter CW

Summit marker

The next day, Saturday, we were joined by Al, KH7AL, and his son Coen. We had a nice breakfast and started towards Signal Butte, W0C/FR-165. This is one of my favorites for testing new SOTA gear but our first two attempts this year proved to be futile. There was just too much snow to get us close to the mountain. Today was no problem on the road but the trail on this mountain goes around the North West and sure enough, there was still a good amount of snow.

I did not have any goats with us to plow a trail up to the summit so we transversed the steep, snow free, North East facing side of the mountain. We summited but not without Lynn, KC0YQF, taking a pretty good fall. Nothing was broke and she wanted to keep going so we did.

After Lynn worked a pileup on 20 Meters Al worked 17 and 20 meter CW. I wanted to work a little PSK31 but the clouds were moving in and we decided to descend after I made a few CW QSOs. We took a more direct approach than we did ascending but got to the TH and our vehicles just as the sky opened up with rain and hail. Perfect SOTA timing.

Notable QSOs were with WA6MM Summit to Summit, Brad is a SOTA animal on a 8 pointer. I  was pleasantly surprised to hear my friend Ken, WA8REI, calling me. I yelled; "its Ken" realizing only I understood what was going on.
Summit Marker

Coen ready to hit the trail!
Al, KH7AL on the summit
Coen on the summit
Al spots Lynn on 20 meters
Pikes Peak
It was a fun two days and we really enjoyed Al and Coen's company for Signal Butte.


Thursday, March 24, 2016

"Spring Break in Santa Fe" or "While I was Hiking in the Desert"

With the winter we have had in Colorado it seemed prudent to take advantage of Lynn's off time during her school's Spring Break. The destination, Santa Fe NM for a few nights.

Pikes Peak from my parking space at work
On the way down to Santa Fe we stopped an activated Capulin Volcano W5N/SG-009 (an easy drive up) and Wagon Mound W5N/EL-016 (an easy walk up). I am not a fan of Capulin due to the crowds but Wagon Mound was perfect with little wind and mild temps.

On day two Lynn and I met Fred, KT5X, John, K1JD and Alan, NM5S (or as I learned his call phonetically; New Mexico 5 Station). Love it! After breakfast, Lynn, Fred, John an I headed to W5N/SI-010, Palomas Peak and Alan headed to W5N/PW-032, Glorieta Mesa.

W5N/SI-010 was a neat hike with great scenery and even better company. This is were I learned there are three basic types of tales:

1. A fairy tale starts with "Once Upon a Time"
2. A war tale starts with "This is a No-Shiter"
3. A Mountain Goat tale starts with "While I was Hiking in the Desert"

We heard a lot of Mountain Goat tales that entertained and amazed!

Kind of says it all
Fred thought it would take us an hour to summit and he was dead on, to the minute. After we summited Lynn and I were able to work Alan, NM5S, on Glorieta Mesa using 2 meters afterwards, Lynn went to 20 meter SSB and I worked a few stations using Fred's setup on 20 meter CW.

Fred running the pileup

Fred stands up while activating holding his rig, log and paddles (pen attached on a tether) and while this looks hard to master it is surprisingly natural and I had no problem using his setup.

SOTA Master Fred, KT5X/WS0TA
John has a relaxed but efficient operating posture

John's well thought out MTR-5 Station

KC0YQF running the SSB Station

many different types of cacti in the area

These suckers will reach out and grab you

After we exhausted the chasers we packed and headed to our final summit, W5N/SI-001 or Sandia Crest. Fred parked about a half mile below the summit and we took the Sandia Crest Trail to what would be our operating location. While we were sweating and shedding layers on Palomas Peak we were adding everything we had for Sandia Crest on order to stay warm and stay protected from the 55 MPH wind gust.

This time, instead of bugging Fred to use his station, I decided to do a first, a SSB only activation! Lynn already had a crowd of chasers worked and I took advantage of her freq and had some fun on SSB. Thank you K6EL for not only spotting me but correcting the RBN spot for Fred.

K0JQZ trying to figure out how SSB works

Lynn and Fred on the Sadia Crest Trail

Lynn and I had an absolute grand time! Thank you John, Fred and Alan!



Sunday, February 28, 2016

SOTA Gear Packout

Lynn and I set off to tackle Knights Peak (W0C/FR-144) but were met with three feet of snow and it was impassable without snowshoes so we opted to hike to Peter's Dome off of Old Stage Road.

We happened to find the TH for this popular hike when pulling off for an overlook of the city of Colorado Springs. It is a short hike and around several hundred feet of elevation gain.

While we stopped for lunch, near the top, I thought it would be a good time for Lynn to go over what her Summits On The Air Packout looks like. This is the basic setup we have been using over the years and is good for all modes (SSB, CW, PSK 31 and RTTY) and easy deployment.

As always, we recommend the Ten Essentials while hiking but especially when hiking in the winter time and in the Rockies.

If you have any questions about the equipment please post it to the blog. I will do my best to answer all questions.

As a note: This is the configuration we use when activating together, as we often do. If I am alone I have different setups that I will talk about those in the future.

Here are a few pictures followed by a short video.

Knights Peak will have to wait for snow melt

KC0YQF, Lynn, hamming it up (so to speak)

My 2013 JK

TH for Peter's Dome (.7 miles)

Antenna Towers near the summit of Cheyenne Mountain

View South West

The Ham Radio Station

Lynn's KX3, raising the standard

A123 Battery from Buddipole (these things are fantastic)

9:1 UnUn and about 30 feet of wire and support rope (when needed)

Clock / Audio Recorder / Notebook

Human Machine interfaces / Mic and morse paddles

The carrying case

Thank you to all that read my blog and watch the videos. Comments are always welcome.