Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Estes Park Colorado: Prospect Mountain and Lily Mountain (W0C/FR-069 and W0C/FR-050)

I realized late Saturday that Lynn and I both had Monday off so we went to Estes Park Colorado on Sunday thinking that the 4th of July crowds would be gone or leaving. We ran into the usual flatlanders having trouble on highway 36 into Estes Park but we made it there in time to do at least one and maybe two summits.

Estes Park and Lyons Colorado were devastated by flooding last year. Lynn and I were shocked at the level of the devastation and also impressed at the rebound these two towns have taken in the last few months. There is still some road construction but traffic moved right along. In contrast, Colorado Springs has yet to open the area from the Waldo Canyon fire two years ago and the Old Stage area remains closed with a new estimated opening date of Sep 2014. That is almost a year and a half to repair ten miles of dirt roads!

The flooding in our area washed out parts of Fort Carson (near to us) and was called Lake Carson for a while. Fort Carson, like Estes Park and Lyons Colorado have bounced back and in my opinion, better than ever. Our hearts go out to the people that lost so much.

We took the tram up Prospect Mountain. Lynn loves these things and they are a lot of fun but cost money (12 dollars a person with military or senior discount). As always there is a lot of wildlife in the area around Prospect Mountain and we spotted a few deer and chipmunks which is always fun.

I was able to self spot although our activation time was pretty close according to the alert I posted. Even if my activation time is spot on I still like to self spot Lynn on SSB just to let the chaser know where she is. It is just common courtesy when people are looking for you and highly encouraged.

With CW it is easy as the Reverse Beacon Network will pick me up automatically as long as I am within 1 hour before and 4 hours after the posted activation time.

When packing up I chatted with Bryan, N0BCB on 2 meters and he was coming down from another summit. We were both trying to beat the storms!

After Prospect we checked into our hotel room and walked downtown for lunch. When we returned to the room around 1500 and Lynn said; "hey, lets do another summit" so off we went to Lily Mountain.

I have done Lily Mountain before and it kicked my butt. It is a 4 pointer but do not let that fool you, the last mile is brutal with a lot of elevation gain (I cannot remember if it was 1000 or 2000 feet total).

We made it based on pure determination. Since we were pretty late we passed everyone that was parked at the TH coming down. When we summited there was one family still on the summit but they left after a few minutes and we had the summit and the views to ourselves.

Since there is limited space on this summit it is a natural for the Buddipole Vertical and it worked like gangbusters. I have it pre-tuned for 10 through 20 meters by marking the counterpoise with colored beads that correspond to the coil tap colors on the mini-coil. It makes it fast and easy to setup.

We were beat on this summit because we knew we had a long hike, also uphill, to get to the TH. Seriously, the first part of the hike is downhill so you have to go uphill to get out. We went through all our water near the end but still had a grand time. The views from this summit are fantastic and the rock scrambling at the top is a lot of fun.

My video did not turn out how I wanted it and I have been having a lot of trouble with iMovie screwing up the frames. I actually had to totally delete the first draft and start over with no format. I think the format function was what is screwing it up. This stuff is memory intensive but my iMac has 12 GIG of RAM so maybe a faster processor may help. I just do not want to spend the money on a new machine, yet!

Here is the video:


73 from
Frank K0JQZ and Lynn, KC0 Y oung Q uick F ox.....

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Kaufman Ridge High Point and Aspen Ridge (W0C/SP-081 and W0C/SP-084) or Two Years Doing SOTA

The 4th of July weekend is usually one weekend that Lynn and I stay home while everyone else is out camping. Our reason is simple, just too many people and too many unsafe roads. However, our new thing has been SOTA and two years ago on the 4th of July weekend, more precisely the 5th of July, Lynn and I completed our first SOTA activation of Midland Hill near Buena Vista Colorado.

That set us down a journey that continues today. That first activation was not without its problems but we did enjoy it and we always go back to Midland Hill every year. This year we did it early to pickup the bonus points. Normally Mount Herman is a first SOTA activation for people in the Front Range and we attempted Mount Herman in May of 2012 but I was unable to complete it. I got to the boulder field within 300 feet of the summit and stopped, unable to go any further.

Now I am looking at doing my first 14er hike this summer!

So, in keeping with our new tradition Lynn and I headed to the general area of Midland Hill and decided to camp at the base of Kaufman Ridge HP. As a bonus our friend Nick was able to join us.

We drove the Jeeps out to the valley and setup base camp. Nick has not camped in a while and had misplaced the poles for his tent so rather than bag it he decided to make the best of it. I had some rope packed and we just hung the tent up the best we could. If it would rain I am pretty sure Nick would have to retreat to his Jeep but we got lucky. It ended up looking like something Spiderman would have put together. I really admired Nick for staying out there as most people would have left calling it a day.
Jeeps at base cam
Nick and Lynn string up the tent, Spiderman style
After we got setup we headed up to the summit of Kaufman Ridge. It is not a long hike but it is a steady steep hike and that wears on you a bit. There was a threat of storms the whole hike but we were getting lucky and stayed dry. We sure could hear the static on HF as the storms moved around us.

Kaufman Ridge HP is not a great summit but you do get some good views to the West.
Kaufman Ridge High Point
After I setup the antenna I noticed the time I guessed for our activation was 2300Z which is what I posted as an alert and we were four minutes ahead of that time. I thought this was going to be pretty easy especially since our APRS beacon was getting in and I had the correct summit listed (sometimes I don't).

Well I was wrong, Lynn called CQ for 30 minutes with nothing. I was able to get a SMS spot in followed by another but unknown to us the bloody server was acting up. I think it was a plot by the Old Country to teach us a lesson on our Independence Day.

I had enough and went to CW and was able to get a few QSOs thanks to some vigilant hams out there. I also announced at the end of my run on CW that we would be on SSB and I think that helped as K6EL made a rare appearance on SSB for Lynn.

We finished up our pitiful activation with me still scratching my head as to what went wrong. Of course in the back of my mind I was pissed because we are demonstrating ham radio to Nick and I really wanted to have a pileup for Lynn so he could listen to all the stations. That did not happen.

Lynn, KC0YQF on Kaufman
Nick, no call yet, on Kaufman
Your author, K0JQZ on Kaufman
We headed down the summit and was glad to get back to base camp. We ate, chatted and I hit the sack soon after Lynn. It started to chill down and I would guess it was in the high 30s at nightfall but we were at 10,000 feet so it does get cool. It was a nice break from the triple digit heat in the Fountain Valley.

I was not sure about the next days summit. I did not do the summit I had planned because I realized Lynn had never been up Aspen Ridge and I figured she would like it so that is where we went. The road is very nice until the last 1.5 miles and it turns into a Jeep Trail but we both had our Jeeps so up we went.

Aspen Ridge
We noticed a few camp grounds that we may visit in the future that had no one in them. On the way down it was a different story but it just goes to show you that you can find a good spot even on the 4th of July without many people around.

They call this Aspen Ridge for a reason and we really enjoyed the hike through the Aspen Groves.
Lynn coming up
You just kind of break out of the Aspens near the top
Nick checking out the area

Picture time
Midland Hill as seen from Aspen Ridge (our first SOTA summit)
Looking towards Buena Vista
I used the LNR Trail Friendly EF antenna on this summit. Instead of operating under the big tree I decided to move to the sun (it was a little chilly) and use the tree to support one end of the EF and use the hiking pole attached to a fence post for the other end.

Again, like Kaufman, Lynn calls CQ for 30 minutes. I spot her via SMS THREE TIMES and nothing. She continues to call CQ and finally makes contact with Gary and his XYL Darlene (W5ODS and N9BVK) and then nothing. Lynn does not give up and she makes two more QSOs. I am baffled at whats going on and am thinking that everyone must be enjoying the 4th of July away from their radios.

I made no QSOs on CW so we packed up and headed down. It is a great summit so we enjoyed our time regardless of the lack of pileups. I was starting to think there may be an equipment issue but all the stations we did work were coming in pretty good and we got good reports back.

After this summit we headed home 100 miles to the East. Once I got back I checked our spots and saw one spot for Lynn by Glenn, N4MJ, who was the last person she worked so not only were our SMS spots not getting in it looked like Reverse Beacon Network was a no go as well. From what I have read it looks like it was sever problems or something although I saw a number of spots for other activators.

The last two years doing SOTA has been fun. I learned a lot, I am off ALL medications and as a bonus Lynn and I get to play radio together. How cool is it to have your spouse enjoy doing what you are doing. I never have to justify buying new radios hi hi.

Here is the video of our activation:


Thanks Nick for hanging out with us!!!!!

73 from Frank and Lynn
K0JQZ / KC0YQF

Monday, June 30, 2014

A little fun on Field Day

Lynn and I did not really participate in Field Day but I wanted her to see what it was all about. We drove up to a Field Day site near Castle Rock Colorado and checked out the setup.

Field Day is part educational event, part operating event, part public relations event and it is designed to use emergency power, temporary antennas and locations and show the public how Amateur Radio works and the value it brings. The objective is to talk to as many stations as possible in a 24 hour period. Hams use digital modes, Phone, Morse Code and bounce signals off the moon, use satellites to relay signals back to earth and talk directly to the International Space Station. However, the most important part of Field Day is getting would be hams involved!

All this Field Day stuff probably seemed normal to Lynn because it is the exact thing we do for each SOTA summit we activate only more antennas, more power and a lot more people and food.

This group had a GOTA or "Get On The Air" station manned by Master Ham Instructor Stu, W0STU, so Lynn felt comfortable jumping in and making a few QSOs.

I did not have my camera with me so this is all done on the iPhone and the trailer is a "just for fun" video.



Special thanks to Stu, W0STU!

73 from Frank and Lynn
.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Threemile Mountain and the LNR Precision End Fed Trail Friendly Antenna

We made a last minute decision to head up Threemile Mountain last weekend. Lynn and I both had a good weekend of spending time with her students on a summer school trip to Bents Fort near La Junta Colorado and also have been cleaning out closets and generally downsizing.

It was a nice break to get out to a summit and do a little radio. Since I did a video report of our activation I will talk a little about the LNR End Fed antenna.

Here is the video of the activation:


I had no intentions of buying the LNR Precision EF Trail Friendly antenna but after meeting the LNR Precision staff at Dayton and seeing the display antenna I decided to give it a whirl. I ordered it at the hamfest and it was on my doorstep shortly thereafter. Here is the writeup from the LNR web site:

“Trail-Friendly”

EFT-10/20/40 Trail Friendly
EFT-10/20/40 Trail Friendly
LNR Precision also offers the NEW “Trail Friendly” version of the popular Multi-band QRP 10/20/40 EndfedZ antenna. The new “EFT-10/20/40 Trail Friendly” is an enhancement of the EF-10/20/40 MKII offering a lightweight but strong 26G polystealth wire (opposed to 18G).  The matchbox (BNC connection) is much smaller and the total weight of the antenna comes in at an amazing 3.5OZ. The overall storage dimensions is 5.25″ x 2″ x 2.5″ and is perfect for your mobile needs. Also it is the first of our EndfedZ antennas to come with our “rewind” storage bar for easy deployment/storage. More details will be coming (along with specs and pictures) but we are already taking orders on our purchase page and units will ship just a few days upon order placement. The EFT-10/20/40 Trail Friendly offers the same superb quality you have come to expect with all of our EndFedZ antennas and we know you will be pleased. Be the first in your club to show off this hot new antenna!  

I found the antenna to be everything they advertise it to be.

Small and light weight (perfect)
This thing is small and well built. The only weak point is in the antenna radiator which attaches to the matching network without any strain relief. That would not normally be a problem and do not think it would be an issue with normal use. However, I am pretty brutal on antennas and sometimes break things trying to get deployed fast on a SOTA summit. This was no different and I promptly broke the lug that attaches the radiator to the matching network during its first use. No matter, I just stripped the wire, tied it in a knot and reattached it. Now it has a little strain relief.

Antenna wire reattached
Here you can see the wire and 40 meter coil deployed on a SOTA summit
The other end in an old snag with 15 feet of RG-174
Since I did not tune the antenna before bringing it out I decided to check it to make sure. It was a little long so I trimmed it a bit and it was spot on. I tuned it for 40 meters first (this is probably backwards) as I figured it would be a little narrow on that band and broader on 20. It is now resonate for 40 meters CW and is resonate across the entire 20 and 10 meter band.

Easy to tune, light weight, no tuner required and easy to deploy..... almost perfect.

This antenna will be easy to modify for other bands such as 17 meters (maybe 15 meters) but I really need 30 meters. I think that a 30 meter stub after the 40 meter coil may work and I plan to experiment with that this summer.

The winding system is unique and I think ingenious. However, I have my own method of winding end feds and will probably remove the winder in favor of my hand winding method that I showed in my Aspen Ridge video on my youtube channel. (search for KA4JQZ then look for the Aspen Ridge video or look for my post on Aspen Ridge).

In order to remove the winder I will have to find another way to provide strain relief for the coil section but I have some ideas. I will post updates as I modify this antenna.

Overall I am very pleased with this antenna and impressed with the folks at LNR Precision.

I look forward to their re-release of the FX4 as I think they build a quality product.

Please feel free to ask any questions.

73
Frank
K0JQZ


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Cheesman Mountain W0C/FR-089 Activation 15 June 2014

Lynn had just returned from WI after visiting with her folks for a week. She wanted to do an easy hike and of course she wanted to get a few points if possible. I had researched Cheesman Mountain a little while ago and thought it would be a good time to check it out. How hard could it be, it is under 8K feet ASL and only a 1 pointer.

Famous Last Words!

I would not say it was difficult but there is a fair amount of bushwhacking involved as we have to leave the well established trail and bushwhack through a maze of small hills to reach the ridgeline heading to the summit. Just because it is a 1 pointer does not mean it will be a walk in the park.

Map of the trail at the TH

Fuel Break information
Cheesman Reservoir was visible for the first part of the hike
Lynn did great
Pikes Peak
A lot of dead fall
Great views
You can just make out my hat as viewed from the summit
This is the rock that many people climb up
Lynn goofing off
I was a great hike and a lot of fun. The weather was fine despite the high winds once we were on the summit. We scrabbled down behind the summit rock to get out of the wind and enjoy the activations.

The antenna was a Buddipole Vertical (the 11 inch shock cord version), mini coil, versa tee supported by the shock cord mast. I made a counterpoise and used colored beads to make the frequency I had pre-tuned it for and used the same color for the tap. For example, 20 meters was the blue tap pin the mini coil and the blue bead on the counterpoise. You want to make it fool proof the higher in altitude you go. This setup along with the KX3 is almost 7 pounds which is a nit more than my ultra light MTR and EFHW setup at 14 ozs.


I was able to spot Lynn to my surprise!
RBN Found me after the first CQ
APRS track
Here is the video from the activation:


Thanks Chasers

KC0YQF Log for 20 Meter SSB:

W7RV
W5ODS
N6KZ
ND0C
NS7P
WA2USA

K0JQZ Log 20 Meter CW:

ND0C
KG3W
W7RV
N4EMG
NS7P
WA2USA
W9FHA
KJ6MBW
W5ODS
K7TQ
N0BN  Summit to Summit (W0C/FR-073)


73 from Frank and Lynn