Tuesday, December 31, 2013

SOTA Activation of Little Scraggy Peak W0/FR-059 31 Dec 2013

The last activation of the year is over. It has been a while that Lynn and I activated a summit and actually got points for it. If it was not for the points I do not think we would have done this one.

It was hard but that is an understatement. I am pretty sure I cut over to the North too quick (despite instructions saying not to do that) and ended up doing a direct approach on the South East face of this mountain. I did not realize my mistake until we were already committed. It was hard and vertical but we picked our route carefully and soon enough we started seeing rock markers showing us the way to the summit. We activated below the summit, well within the activation zone, to take advantage of the trees.

Thanks to George KX0R for the Trip Report on K0MOS's website. I would not have attempted it without your instructions. Also thanks to Randy, ND0C, for spotting Lynn on SSB.

I made some errors and not just on the route. I re-charged my camera batteries but leaving them in the shack does not help. I took a whopping two pictures. And here they are:

Lynn taking a breather
Great views
My backup camera and SOTA spotting tool (i.e. iPhone) was back in the SOTA Jeep…. I figured I could start on CW get spotted via RBN and then have Lynn activate SSB and figured people would look for her. They did and Randy found her. Lynn had a great pileup with one S2S. She did great. Here is her log all on 20 meters:

N0PCL  Summit to Summit

I was having a hard time tuning 20 meters and found out later than I still had about 10 feet of antenna wire that I did not deploy. No matter the KX3 did tune to all bands 40 meters and up but I only used a few for todays activation. The big money band today was 30 meters which is one of my favorites.

Here is my log:

30 Meters

12 Meters

40 Meters

20 Meters

I got all packed up to head down with my pack on and everything secure when Lynn noticed the antenna still hanging in the trees. Well, it took another 5 minutes but we were heading home.

We made it up, we made it down and no one got hurt so this was a very successful activation. Thanks to all the chasers out there. I do enjoy the pileups more than the points.

BONUS: My friend John, W9FHA, made a recording of me from his QTH in IN. Take a listen:


Monday, December 30, 2013

The Paint Mines

No SOTA content but Lynn and I took her new car (2014 Subaru Crosstrek) out to Calhan Colorado and hiked the Paint Mines. It is a neat area.

Here is the youtube vid with the pictures.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

"Christmas Present plus Sugru" or "A perfect case for the ATS4"

Lynn and I had a nice Christmas at home, just the two of us plus our furry children. We slept in late, watched TV and exchanged presents.

I really wanted a Red Ryder BB Gun but I am pretty sure I would have put an eye out by now.
With compass in the stock!

Instead of the BB Gun Santa brought me a watch to use on activations. It clips to my pack, shows 24 hour GMT time, has a compass and more importantly the numbers are big enough for me to see them.

This will come in handy for SOTA activations
The watch came in a neat case and I never like to throw out a neat case. In fact I have a box full of neat cases but most I have not found a good use for. This on looked to be a perfect size for the Steve Weber designed ATS4. A test fit proved it was a pretty close.

Pretty close fit
Test Fit

I have some styrofoam that I was thinking about using but I had a few packets of Sugru left. If you do not know what Sugru is here is a LINK.

This stuff is great!
Bottom part done
I setup the bottom first by rolling the Sugru into four small balls (it is like working with clay) and put them where the feet for the ATS4 would rest. I then set the radio in the box in order to set the feet into the Sugru. Then I made two balls for the top and put the radio in and closed everything.

Top Done
A test shake proved to have no movement which is what I wanted. I noticed the box has a gasket around the edge so I submerged it in the sink (without the radio in it) and it is NOT water proof, it leaked at the hinges but this is only with it completely submerged. I have confidence that in the rain or in my pack it will be just fine. Good enough for me!

The ATS4 is not my ultra light weight radio as I usually use it with a linked dipole, 25 feet of rg-174 coax and a 1400mah battery so it is more for longer SOTA activations or an evening in the park. In other words I do not mind adding a little weight to this setup. For ultralight SOTA activations I go with the MTR and EFHW.

ATS4 in Sugru modified case with ham license taped to top
I have started taping my ham license to my portable equipment along with my phone number an email address just in case I leave something some where. Of course this relies on the person that finds the radio or equipment to make an effort to contact me but I believe most people will do that. After all, the ATS4 or any other Steve Weber designed radio is a relative rarity and does not have much monetary value to the average person. Now if I left Lynn's KX3 on a summit that is different because I have to answer to her.

Merry Christmas

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mount Herman with some new friends

At the last minute Lynn and I decided to hike up Herman with Steve, wG0AT but due to logistic issues we arrived at the TH about the time Steve would had made it to the summit. Steve was kind enough to wait for us with Barley and Acorn.

Since Lynn and I were just looking for a reason to go for a hike we did not activate. I did listen to Steve activate which is almost as much fun, while Lynn took a goat nap. Here is a short video outlining our day with Acorn and Barley. Nothing fancy just a few pictures.

Thanks Steve, Acorn and Barley for the good time.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Got a surprise in the mailbox today.

I am not much of an awards chaser but I did fill out the paperwork for the 1000 Miles Per Watt award and it arrived today.

It is from my QSO with Rich, N4EX in Raleigh, NC when I was doing a SOTA activation on Signal Butte using the Rockmite at 200 milliwatts.

Here it is:

I think this award and this club, do a fine job of promoting QRP and QRPp which is what this contact was at less than a watt.

I now have a new goal of 10,000 miles per watt!


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Mighty Mite Weekend on Mount Herman with the Rock Mite 20, 7 Dec 2013

This was probably not the smartest thing I have done. Our weather has been very arctic like with temps well below zero with the windchill. However, it was Mighty Mite weekend and the dedicated hams that have built the Rock Mite series of radios were heading out to try to make a few contacts using less than 1 watt. I did not want to miss this!!!!!

In case anyone is interested, QRPME is the new web site to order a Rockmite from.  You can read about/purchase them here QRP Me.

I gave myself two hours to get to the TH and a good thing I did. The Interstate between my house and Monument was very icy, I do not think I went over 50 MPH the whole way. I was worried about the road to the TH because it is dirt and probably not plowed but it was actually better than the Interstate. Upon arrival there was only one car at the TH parking area.

At least one other brave soul was there.
Beautiful Day
The TH was a balmy Zero Degrees Fahrenheit.
Once I got my gators and spikes on my hands started to get cold. I started down the trail and did not think I would make it, my hands started to hurt and I could not get them warm. I decided that I would set a goal of at least 1/3 of the way up and if my hands were still hurting I would retreat. Once I started up the steep incline I started to warm up and my hands no longer bothered me. I started stopping more often to ensure I did not sweat but I misjudged that and started sweating from the top of my head. I do this a lot so I carry two hats, I stopped, dried off and put on another hat. I was able to regulate my body heat much better without the gore-tex jacket so I stowed it.

It was a nice hike and very quiet until I caught up to two people that decided to brave the cold as I did.

Soon I was at the saddle between the North and South summit. I was debating on which one to operate from and since there were people on the North Summit I went South. It was so calm that I could hear them talking from the South summit although I could not make out what they were saying. The South summit was very peaceful and I choose a place that Lynn and I used as an activation area before.

Nice and still
The saddle looking East to Monument Colorado
Heading South
A nice "rock" to hold the "rock mite"…..
View from my shack
Another view

This thing is off a bit
My temp gage is not very good and had been sitting in the sun but I wanted to see how accurate it was. I have an app on the iPhone that said minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit but I do not know if that was correct or not either. My guess is it was closer to minus 10 than 20 degrees above. I have asked Santa for a digital one for Christmas.

I threw a cord in the tree nearest me and attached the end of the EFHW to it and was surprisingly able to deploy it fairly quickly in the cold. The coax was already somewhat stiff from the cold. After hooking up the Rockmite I was on the air calling CQ…. and calling CQ… and still calling CQ. I checked the RBN and nothing…. There was a lot of interference on the band from a Weekend Sprint (not sure which club was running it) so maybe the RBN was having trouble hearing my complete call. After all I was just putting out 200 milliwatts.

A quick call to Steve on 2 meters and I was spotted and started my Mighty Mite pileup. The chasers really earned their 4 points on this one today. With all the activity on the band and my weak signal it was amazing anyone heard me.

Thanks to the following chasers:

N1EU   8164 miles per watt!!!! Thanks Barry!!

I am still amazed at just a few components, an EFHW and a 9 volt battery could produce that kind of results.

I did not have time to change out C8 so the sidetone note is still pretty loud (you will hear it in the youtube video) but it worked fine.

I started to get cold again and wanted to get down. My water had started to freeze and so did I when the wind picked up. It was time to go, I packed very quickly and beat feet off the side of the mountain. While heading down I reached a part of the trail I call "The Meadows" because it is flat and during the summer it looks like a bog meadow, almost out of place. It was here that the wind really started. I had stowed my gore-tex (water proof) jacket and had on a soft pull over. As soon as the wind started the snow started falling out of the trees. I got soaked and could see steam rising from my arms and neck because I was just too warm. I decided not to stop and pushed on to the TH. I was very warm by the time I got to the Jeep and was glad I did not do something stupid like that on the way up. 

I stopped to take a few pictures on the way home.

I passed Steve, wG0AT, on the way out but I did not see him. He saw me heading down while he was heading out to take the herd out for some exercise. I wish he could have joined me on this one. 

It was a good activation. I am surprised how well I did in the cold but that was due to gear and it is ever important to remember how easy it can turn on you. At those temps it is nothing to be taken lightly.

My first Mighty Mite Weekend activation is over but I am already looking forward to the next one.

Here is the Miles per watt breakdown:

Call             Actual Miles     Miles Per Watt
W5ODS           547                    2733
W6IYS             964                    4821
W7RV              545                    2723
NS7P              1011                  5055
N4EX              1453                  7267
AJ5C               674                    3372
K0LAF             634                    3169
N7WM             552                    2762
W7CNL           659                    3294
WA2USA        952                    4759
KG3W             1319                  6596
N1EU              1633                  8164 (NEW RECORD FOR ME)
N0EVH           567                    2835
WG0AT           4                       19
W0MNA          535                   2675
W0ERI            535                   2675
K5RWP          619                   3095


Saturday, November 30, 2013

S.O.T.A. Activation with the ROCKMITE 20 on Signal Butte, Divide, Colorado on 30 Nov 2013

Tomorrow starts the winter bonus season for SOTA but Lynn and I wanted to get out today. It seems between the fires and floods we still have a lot of summits closed off to us. Signal Butte, as my regular readers know, is one of my favorites and we can get to the TH in about an hour and a half. 

I also was itching to use the Rockmite I built for 20 meters a month or so ago. It gets a whopping 200 milliwatts output with a 9 volt battery. I was not sure how this would go so I also packed the KX3 as a backup and so Lynn can work SSB if she wanted.

We packed up and headed out. We stopped in Divide Colorado at our favorite burrito place for a couple of breakfast burritos and landed at the TH about an hour after that. It was a cool 34 degrees at the TH with a slight breeze.

Lynn at the TH
It was a steady climb to the top with took about 40 minutes.

The trail does get steep in some places.

And finally we summited.

It was time to get down to business. I setup the EFHW for 20 meters and got out the Rockmite. It took a while for the RBN to pick me up and when it did it got me at 3db on the West coast. After that the pileup started and it was steady for a little over 10 minutes.

Rockmite, Speaker, Recorder and 9V battery

I worked the following stations with an EFHW and Rockmite at 200 milliwatts output:
AA5CK  Summit to Summit (Thanks for finding me because the rock mite is of course rock bound)
N4EX  (7327 Miles Per Watt!!!!!!!)

Lynn took over on SSB and worked:
KK7DS Summit to Summit
KC5CW Summit to Summit 

Lynn, KC0YQF making QSOs
The KX3 right at home on the summit
I also worked the following stations on the KX3 at 5 watts:
KC5CW Summit to Summit SSB
W0CCA Summit to Summit

When I had my QSO with W0CCA the cold was getting the better of me. After AE4FZ I called it quits as no other stations were calling and I needed to move around a bit to stay warm. I was hoping to get a few more summit to summit QSOs but I talked myself out of that. 

Lynn with Pikes Peak in background
The author ready to head down
The first outing with the Rockmite went well. It was a fun project to build. I would not pick it as my main SOTA radio but it is what it is. A lot of fun and just a neat QRPp rig that you can build in an evening without breaking the bank. I am pleased as punch to work Rich, N4EX, 1465 miles away which translates to 7327 miles per watt if I did the math right.

Here is a video covering my entire time working stations (audio only). I wanted to just do an audio file but I screwed that up so the only way to post it in the blog was through youtube. I added some pictures to pass the time. I had thought about transcribing the CW but I would be here all night doing that. You guys get the idea.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

New Look for the Mountain Topping Radio (MTR) and dipole stuff

Today was exhausting and I hardly did anything. I took Lynn to the hospital (Evans Army Hospital) for a scheduled consult with her new doctor. We saw the doctor, got X-rays, did lab work and picked up meds and were on our way in just a few hours. It was a very efficient visit.

We stopped at the PX and had lunch and did a little shopping and while doing that I checked SOTAGoat app and noticed that Steve, wG0AT was on Mt Herman, Dan NA6MG (North American 6 Mountain Goat) was activating today and Dennis and John (WA2USA / W9FHA) were out on a SOTA Expedition in AR.

I was able to work all of them later when we got home.

I also received a surprise in the mail from Steve, wG0AT, see below, my new MTR label.

MTR Label
It is a sticker for my MTR. If you have been following my blog you know that I painted my MTR all white but had not decided what to do for a label and after using it a few times without a label I decided to keep it that way but Steve was making a few and made this one for me. A week later it is now on my MTR and I think it looks GREAT!!!!!! Thanks Steve.

MTR with Air Force Symbol

You may think; "Hey, how do you know where to plug everything in at?" Well, the antenna is the only BNC connector, the power connection is the only one of that size so the only two left are the earplugs and paddles. They are easy to remember if you only need to know where one goes because the other goes in the other socket.

But wait a minute, you may also think; "how do you know what all the buttons do without labels?" Good question, it is like any other radio, after you use it enough you just know. To be truthful I do not have all the functions of this little radio memorized but the common ones I do know and on a SOTA summit that is all I need.

I am really pleased with the outcome.

Next up was the Iditarod Antenna outlined on WA3WSJ's web site HERE. I did a few things to it t make it more robust and usable. After using the antenna a bit I noticed I was breaking the 26 gage teflon wire at the BNC connector. I never did this while out in the field but seemed to do it a lot while at home winding it or just storing it.

I used some hobby wax that comes in sticks and melted it over the connections and while this will probably NOT prevent me from breaking it in the future it may slow me down a bit.

After 1
After 2
While I had this antenna out I wanted to tune if for 15 meters. A dipole cut for 40 meters should tune on 15 meters so it was just a matter of adding about a foot of wire to each end in order to have it tuned for 21.060 Mhz.

An extra foot on each end
I used Orange wire so it shows better
This makes the antenna resonate on 40, 30, 20 and 15 meters and a perfect mate to the ATS4b which has all those bands plus 80 meters so I just lack the ability to get on 80. Thats four bands, no tuner required and very light weight, even with the 25 feet of RG-174 to feed it.

I am glad I took the day off from work to hang out with Lynn and take her to the hospital. I absolutely hate the hospital but I must say the Army Hospital at Fort Carson is a very good facility and I am glad we have it near by.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day and a new MTR case

First of all thank you veterans for all that you have done, past, present and future AND, happy 238th Birthday United States Marine Corps (yesterday). Semper Fi!!!!

Today feels like a Sunday because 1) I have to go back to work tomorrow and 2) Lynn and I went to the PX on Fort Carson to shop a bit. It has been kind of a ritual that when we do not have any else to do.

However, yesterday was a non-SOTA hike in Muller State Park. A few pictures.

Great views

Lynn looking into the valley 
A lot of snow in the shaded areas
Rock Pond is just about all frozen

Before going to Fort Carson we went to a local Electronics outlet that sells wire, components, connectors etc… I had a list and got out of there in record time. I needed more teflon wire and picked up some for a friend. The only thing I did not find was RG-174 but I found a good on-line source for better quality stuff than what I have been using. I could spend hours there but I think Lynn was really bored.

After that we went to Fort Carson and I noticed the military supply store (kind of like a surplus store) had rearranged and they had a little pouch that I thought either the KX1 or MTR would fit in. It turns out the bigger of the two (the KX1) does fit and I have more than enough space with the MTR in there.

Without seeing a MTR it is hard to imagine the size but here is a shot of my field radios.

Left to Right: KX3, KX1, ATS4b and MTR
All of these are small radios. The KX3 is a world class radio with many features and would work just as well on the desk of a contest station as it does on a summit. It is truly a pleasure to use and it is Lynn's. The KX1 (my goto QRP radio for a long time) is also a great CW only radio with big rig features like filtering and a ATU. The next radio is the ATS4b that I bought assembled and broken however, after getting advice from a great user group I was back on the air with it. I like that it as it has 5 bands to choose from (80, 40, 30, 20 and 15 Meters). The MTR (white one on the end) is my favorite go-light rig, two bands a decent receiver and it just goes and goes with the smallest of batteries.

Here is a picture of the case or I should say pouch I found today. It will clip to my belt and is only slightly bigger than my portable camera case.

The case I found today
 It has so much room with the MTR that I have a lot of room left over.

Patriot Outfitter (PatriotOutfitters.com)
I am not affiliated with the company at all. I think the price was just under 20 dollars (no sales tax on base). Contents of the case below.

Contents unloaded
As you can see I take a lot of stuff I do not need. I do not need the recorder, cables, clock, speaker or the log book or the pen and pencil if I ever learn how to use the logging program on my iPhone. But I like to record my QSOs and I still like a paper log.

As I did not summit today, I did get to chase a few activators. I worked Dan, NA6MG, Mark, K7NEW, and just worked Steve, wG0AT, who is on Mount Herman with the cremated remains of his lead pack goat, Rooster.  It makes me sad all over again but I know Steve needs the closure and maybe we all do.