Friday, May 27, 2016

KX2 number 81 has arrived in Southern Colorado

I was like a kid at Christmas waiting for the KX2 to arrive. I have been using Steve's KX2 and was familiar with it but was still taken aback when I pulled it out of the box. It is tiny!

I could not wait to use it so today (Friday) I took a day of leave and headed with friend, wG0AT, up Mount Herman for some SOTA fun with both KX2s. Number 6 and 81.

The final ascent (snow covered)

wG0AT checking our movement with a new app

Cold and windy but still great to be out

Starting to see "blue sky" through the trees

K0JQZ on summit getting ready to radiate some RF. (Photo by wG0AT)

I could not stay on the summit long. We had originally planned a pre-dawn hike in order to get some good time lapse video but with the clouds, rain at lower elevations and snow about 8,000 feet we waited. I had to meet Lynn, KC0YQF, for lunch and had to leave Steve on the summit.

The video really tells the whole story so here it is:

If you are like me I was please to hear the introduction of the KX2 made by Eric, WA6HHQ, of Elecraft at the Four Days In May event. In case you missed it here is a link to it.

That was recorded by Ham Radio 360 podcast. They have several hours of interviews from the 2016 Hamvention and many different subjects.

This is a short entry. As always I appreciate those that take the time to read my blog. I know the content is mostly just rambling with no "break through" announcements or discoveries. It just documents my journey in Ham Radio.


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Raspberry Mountain, Again!

This is the second time this year I have hiked this one. The first time was on New Years day and the temp at the TH was minus 5 degrees. Today the TH was 65 degrees warmer.

The first time Lynn had a lot of problems with the cold (pre surgery) and had to bail about a mile into the hike. Today was no problem.

America's Mountain

This guy was looking for food

Looking East

K0JQZ using PSK31

He starts to get pretty aggressive on the food front

Lynn's KX3

The hike was just over 6.5 miles
GPS Track
APRS Beacon
Phil, NS7P and Tommy, W7RV were waiting on Lynn when we got to the summit. I did not have to spot her on the SOTA Web Site so maybe they were following our APRS Track. That is the biggest advantage a Chaser can employe if an Activator is using APRS.

Propagation was not great but Lynn worked the following Chasers on 20 meters:

K6YOA Summit to Summit

I worked PSK31 and was unable to make one QSO. I did make a Summit to Summit QSO with K6HPX on CW. Since I already activated this summit and the trail and summit were getting crowded we called it a day. 



Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Elecraft KX2 on a SOTA summit

I was fortunate enough to use a KX2 on a couple of SOTA activations with SOTA friend Steve, WG0AT.

I believe this is another home run by Elecraft. The radio is easy to use, the tuner tuned my End Fed from 80 to 10 meters, the radio is light weight, easy to use and compact. It is not much bigger than a KX1.

I used it a lot on PSK31, CW and SSB. I used the internal mic and the external Elecraft mic. The specs including price of the radio can be seen at the Elecraft Web site.

KX3, KX1 and the KX2

WG0AT running a pileup on SSB with the KX2

Light weight
Built in tuner
Easy to use
As with all Elecraft Radios great QSK
Small size
Internal Battery with long life


Does this replace the KX3? In a word, no. If I did not have a K3 the KX3 would be my main station. It is that good and fun to take portable. I can see the KX3 in our RV or beach house/cabin in the future.

I do not have a KX3 but the XYL lets me use hers on joint SOTA activations. She is also kind enough to let me pack it. Since Lynn and I plan to do more 14ers this summer this will be a welcome addition. It takes up less space than a water bottle and is pretty much self contained. Add antenna, plug in paddles/mic and your good to go. My next project is to research a small mic for it.

KX1 vs KX2 for size comparison (photo by wG0AT)

K0JQZ on SSB/KX2 (photo by wG0AT)

K0JQZ running a CW pileup on the KX2 (photo by wG0AT)

K0JQZ on the trail (photo by wG0AT)

Thought I would include this assessment between the LD-11 and KX2/KX3:

Not my words but I agree with the facts as stated.

- LD-11 has over twice the KX3's or KX2's current drain in RX mode
- it has no internal ATU- no internal battery
- no RTTY/PSK/CW decode/encode- no attached keyed paddle
- uses relay keying for CW (very noisy!); KX3/KX2: PIN-diode, silent
- very small LCD with a tiny "panadapter" function (very low-grade compared to the PX3)
- only 2 knobs (5 on the KX3, 4 on the KX2)
- only ~12 switch functions (40+ on the KX3, 24+ on the KX2)
- very small, non-weighted tuning knob (KX3 has a weighted knob w/optical encoder)
- much lower power output (5-8 W; KX3 goes to 15 W on most bands, KX2 goes to 10 W)
- no integrated 100-W amp option- poor RX and TX performance (if it's "based on the LD-5" as they claim; the LD-5 did very poorly in its QST review; check their keying problems described by the ARRL)
- no dual watch or stereo audio- no user-programmable functions
- can't be used HT-style (/PM with quick-disconnect ground wire in the case of the KX2)
- easy to accidentally turn power on in pack
- not compatible with popular PC remote control/logging apps
- no extended temperature compensation (they're stuck with +/- 2.5 ppm; we can provide +/- 0.2 ppm)
- minimum supply voltage of 10.5 V (KX3/KX2 can go down to 8 V)
- no real-time clock (optional on both KX3 and KX2)

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.