Sunday, October 19, 2014

The McNeil / Swisher Trail to Cheyenne Mountain

The McNeil Swisher Trail does not really go to the summit of Cheyenne Mountain but it gets you about a half mile away. The McNeil part of the trail is well marked and actually goes down in elevation at first so it is a little tough coming back up if you did the Swisher Trail. The Swisher Trail has several switchbacks and is a bear but is not that long. Once you get to the top you come up at an Aspen Grove and you follow it around to the West and South and make your way up the slope to the ridge that the Cheyenne Mountain geographical summit sits on.

Here is the actual trail.

Lynn and I had lunch just beyond the Aspen Grove and enjoyed the views and mild weather then headed back down.

Here is our route:
Our GPS Route
 And our APRS Track:
K0JQZ-7 APRS Track
Lynn on the trail

McNeil Trail
The commercial antenna farm
Lynn getting ready for lunch

Our usual route to the summit of Cheyenne Mountain for a SOTA activation would be almost straight on (East front he same TH) and very vertical. This is a much longer route (around 6 miles roundtrip). Lynn and I did close to 5.5 miles on this trip. I want to explore this area a little more either before the snow starts in or next spring.

While on the summit I sent an APRS email to my friend Mark, WA6MVT, and to myself and it worked fine. I did talk to K0NR briefly on two meter simplex on our way down but copy was rough so we cut it short. 


Friday, October 10, 2014

Some APRS testing on Mount Herman

I have recently become interested in utilizing APRS and all the functionality of my APRS capable radio, the Kenwood TH-D72. This came about because too many times I have been unable to spot Lynn on SSB via the cell phone SMS service and sometimes the chasers will not spot her either so using APRS just gives us one more avenue to get her spotted so she can have a pileup of SOTA chasers and give out as many points as possible. On CW it is much easier since Reverse Beacon Network will pickup the CW signal and put the spot out there as long as an alert is posted.

I made up a checklist and used it to great success.

Here it is:
Kenwood TH-D72 Checklist

Sending APRS message to self spot or to another Amateur APRS radio:
-       Press “f” (f = function key) then MSG Key or number 4
-       Enter callsign( i.e. SOTA / K0JQZ / NK0E / etc) press “OK” twice
-       Enter text (for SOTA SPOT enter “W0C/FR-063  14.061  CW K0JQZ CQ” (in bold is required information)
-       Press OK to send

Sending email:
-       Press “MSG” Key
-       Select Menu
-       Select NEW
-       Enter “EMAIL” in the TO field
-       Enter email address and leave one space blank after email address
-       Enter email text
-       Press OK to send

The hike was nice with the threat of a storm the whole way.

Here is a video of the activation.

Monday, October 6, 2014

A little Sunday SOTA Chasing

This weekend, after I returned from the Lost Creek Wilderness, Lynn and I took it easy. Both our jobs are getting a little demanding so we needed to care care of a few things around the house.  One of the rules of the Radio Amateur's Code is being "balanced."

The Radio Amateur's Code

CONSIDERATE: He never knowingly operates in such a way as to lessen the

pleasure of others.

LOYAL: He offers loyalty, encouragement and support to other amateurs, local clubs, the IARU Radio Society in his country, through which Amateur Radio in his country is represented nationally and internationally.

PROGRESSIVE: He keeps his station up to date. It is well-built and efficient. His operating practice is above reproach.

FRIENDLY: He operates slowly and patiently when requested; offers friendly advice and counsel to the beginner; kind assistance, cooperation and consideration for the interests of others. These are the marks of the amateur spirit.

BALANCED: Radio is a hobby, never interfering with duties owed to family, job, school or community.

PATRIOTIC: His station and skills are always ready for service to country and community.

adapted from the original Amateur's Code, written by Paul M. Segal, W9EEA, in 1928. 

Instead of dragging Lynn up a mountain I thought that I would do a little chasing on Sunday morning from the comforts of the shack. I was hoping to get a few people on SSB but they were just too weak. I was able to work two activators I have not worked in the past. AE7AP and NN5K. What a thrill. I did a short video of those QSOs.

Here is the video:

I really liked watching the APRS beacon of AE7AP. It is almost like your are there, while watching their trek to the summit unfold real time. I have used APRS beacons in the past and think I will make sure to use it more often (most of the time I forget the 2 meter handheld in the battery charger). I think we, as chasers and I am including myself in this group, get a little too reliant on the SOTA Watch web site and just wait for an activator to pop up. My opinion is if an activator is going to the trouble of using an APRS capable radio it would give a chaser a real advantage to listen on the alerted frequencies and watch the beacon in order to be the first to get him or her.

I just learned how to self spot via APRS beacon on my Kenwood THD72, I plan to use it a lot more in the future.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Wigwam Trail (very little Ham Radio content)

Dave, NK0E and I have been planning an overnighter in the Lost Creek Wilderness area to camp, hike and do a SOTA summit. Our goal was W0C/FR-141 which is unnamed and has never been activated. Dave carefully picked out an area to camp and off we went. It was a challenging hike with about 1200 foot elevation gain in just around 4 miles with about 30 pounds on our backs. The scenery more than made up for it and since it was a Friday we saw very little foot traffic.
Our Goal

Good Advice

After the big Beaver Pond we found an area that had a stream flowing so we could get water. I wanted to try out my Sawyer mini filter and it worked great. I modified the water bag a bit so really wanted to make sure it worked as well in the field as it did at home. It did. I really like the light weight mini filter.

I was feeling the pain for sinuses, altitude and exhaustion so I turned in early while Dave explored the area. Dave discovered that our approach to the summit require another two miles down the trail then a steep and wooded bushwhack vertical. We had not really thought about it but we did not have enough time to do the summit and hike out the next day so we decided to forego the summit. Dave setup his KX3 and EF in base camp to make a few SSB QSOs and we packed up and headed out.

No SOTA points does not bother me as it was just fun to be out there. We will do it again next fall and plan on two nights in order to summit FR-141. To tell you the truth SOTA has lost some of its charm for me but maybe it will pickup again next year. I think this would be a great area for Field Day or for other QRP events like QRP To The Field. Thanks Dave for introducing this area to me.

I did not take a lot of video or pictures but I hobbled together a short video with a few pictures and small amount of video.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

An almost perfect SOTA activation (Knights Peak W0C/FR-144)

So what makes a perfect SOTA activation. Points? A lot of QSOs? Easy Hike? Maybe for some those are motivators but for me just being able to summit a peak like Knights Peak with my XYL. The last time I did this summit it was in the winter with wG0AT and we had a grand time.

We used Lynn's KX3 and an End Fed that is always in my pack as a backup. I forgot to pack the Buddipole Vertical which I would have rather used on this rocky summit. We got Lynn setup and despite having 3 bars on my phone I was not able to SMS a text to spot Lynn on the web site so she called CQ. It took an hour to produce just one QSO so we went to 2 meters and got on a local two meter simplex chat freq of 146.460 and worked two more stations. One of the contacts informed me that everyone else was at a breakfast so Lynn went to 146.520 and picked up a mobile station. Four QSOs means she gets the points for this summit but I was not too worried about it because we can always come out again and do it. I was off on my activation time as I did not expect us to get such an early start so I take some of the blame. I would rather not spot at all but use APRS but it has been my experience that chasers do not seem to want to check APRS beacons as much as they use to. Everyone waits for the spot to appear.

Thanks to KE5YYJ who was portable in a park in Texas. Lynn worked him on 20 meters and he mentioned that he wanted to try SOTA but lived in the flat lands. Also thanks to the local 2 meter crowd that gave Lynn those much needed three remaining QSOs. Ray KG0SS, Melvin KD0DRH and James KC0EL all in Colorado Springs.

The summit registry is really secured to the boulder and it has been there for at least ten years. There is even a wrench attached to help you get the cover off.

Summit Registry
The leafs are starting to change colors and there was a lot of activity in this area when we left. When we parked at the makeshift firing range nearby there was only one car. When we left there were several more.

Parking Area/Firing Range
Several people stopped to ask us for directions so at lot of first timers were out in this area. There was a couple of loads of Boy Scouts that were lost (or their Scout Masters were lost). Having been a Scout I was a little disturbed with the lack of preparedness and courtesy of the Scout Masters. Maybe that is because all my Scout Masters were United States Marines. I hope they found where they were trying to get to but more importantly, I hope the lads had a good time.

After Lynn finished her activation I debated if I wanted to operate at all but I did want to see if my friend G0PEB, Rob, was able to hear me in the UK. Rob had his HW-8 out for a SOTA activation and dropped me an email before he headed out. He had his KX3 as a backup so I tried the bands that I thought would work to the old country, 21 Mhz and 24 Mhz. I could not see if he was on due to no cell phone connectivity but Rob did email me that he saw the RBN spot for me on 24 MHz. I did get into Spain so I know 15 Meters was open. After a while I dropped down to 20 meters and got KC7DM and my friend John, N0EVH on summits in OR and MI respectively.

Mount Rosa from Knights Peak
I would have really loved to have at least heard Rob on his HW-8 but maybe another time.

Now I want to get an HW-8!!!!!

I watched some clouds move in and we got back in time to enjoy the rest of the day. It was as nice an activation as they come.

from Frank and Lynn


Bonus video: SOTA activation of Signal Butte: