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 (
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.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Antenna Test Part 2 (Mount Herman)

 Today it was another outing but this time to Mount Herman. I know the South summit has some good tall trees and no traffic so I headed out. SOTA cat was sleepy for some reason and wanted me to pickup some catnip, "medical catnip" that is, since it is legal here in Colorado.
On the way home from SOTA can you get some Catnip?

I had a better idea but she did not go for it.

You want me to carry what??? More catnip now!

Guess she was not going to let me strap a radio and batteries to her back. Anyway, I took off for Mount Herman. I knew my activation time would be close and I would have been closer to my time if I had not run into traffic that is the norm in Northern Colorado Springs all the way to Monument these days.

No matter, it was 48 in the valley and 56 by the time I reached the trailhead. The trailhead parking was full so I packed around the bend were absolutely no one was parked.

SOTA Jeep all alone.
I should have taken the trail behind this parking area but I was not sure where it went or if I could make it over to the South Summit easily from here so I just walked down the road to the regular TH with all the other people.

There were kids and dogs everywhere. SOTA cat would not like it. Of course it is a weekend and the amateurs were out. Like me….

I made it too the saddle and moved quietly over to the South Summit in order to not let people see me head that way. Most people stay on the path but I was afraid that someone might think to follow me.

I made it to the place I wanted to be and deployed the EF. This time I had 100 feet of cord and put it up a good forty feet at the end. I ran the business end towards a nearby tree near my operating bench and I was in business.

POW Nice Mints and I am on the air!
This is why I wanted this spot, rock chair and table out of the wind!

MTR with iPhone 4 for size comparison
This time I started out on 30 Meters. I had a good run but I would not call it a pileup. I started thinking that when I activate on 30 meters I never get more than a dozen or so QSOs anyway. The Reverse Beacon Network showed me at 26db on 30 meters. All the signals sounded good and I did not have to strain to hear anyone.

Here is my log from 30 meters CW:


I took a break and a few pictures. I also decided to eat something before hitting 20 meters.

Pikes Peak
Pikes Peak with a little zoom
Link removed for 20 meters

20 meters was fun again today. First QSO was a S2S with Bob W6TUY. Here is my Log for 20 meters CW:

K6TUY   S2S, Thanks Bob
WW2SUB    COOL!!!!

Reverse Beacon Network at me at 28db on 20 meters… Life is good.

Lynn, KC0YQF, had a class today so I wanted to make it home before she did but she got out early and called me right when I reached the main trail. It was a good day today.

I am pleased with this antenna and it looks like I have a new goto antenna for the MTR.

The 20 and 30 meter sections butterflied and ready to deploy

Linked together for 30 meters

Unlinked for 20 meters

The matching circuit box and RG-174 (not sure but about 8 feet)

The matching network
Thanks for all the chasers.

I do not do say this enough but thanks to the Management Team in the UK and for the managers in the USA for this program. It not only gets us out in the wild but it also bonds us together. I have met some of the finest hams on the planet. 

My one wish, if anyone in SOTA management reads this. I would like to see the naming of the un-named summits by first activators propagate and grow. I have thought about this a lot and would like to name a summit "SgtMaj Skinner's Summit" in honor of my Dad, KB4OGI, SgtMaj, USMC Retired, who is a SK. I know he would have gotten a thrill to chase me during activations. I still listen for his call sign in the static like I did when we had a schedule when I was stationed overseas or across the country. I miss him deeply.

72  dit dit

Friday, November 8, 2013

Antenna Test on Signal Butte

I recently built a matching network based on a design forwarded to me from a friend so I could use two bands, 20 and 30 meters. The reason I want an End Fed for these two bands is because these are the two bands I built my Mountain Topping Radio (or MTR designed by Steve Weber) for and an EF is just a easily deployed antenna.

I am a big fan of linked dipoles however they have one serious flaw, they require coax to feed them, more than I want to carry. I also like doublets but often do not have the space for a full size doublet so I use a half size one which performs about the same as a Buddipole vertical. The Buddipole vertical is a great antenna if no space is available on the summit but it is heavy.

SOTA Cat does not think it will work!!!
SOTA cat helped me put the antenna together one afternoon after borrowing a toroid from wG0AT. It is a QRP network for sure and I do not think it would handle anything more than 20 watts. Fortunately the MTR output is 6 and 4 watts on 20 and 30 meters respectively.

I have a few people at to work that save altoid tins for me along with baby food contains and other such items. I have been waiting to put something into this mint container with "POW" on the front.

POW is right!
The complete arial ready to be deployed
The radio end support by my walking stick
You can barley see the yellow #26 teflon coated wire
The wind was really bad and my end of the antenna support fell a few times. No mater, it worked like gangbusters on 20 meters and it is less than 30 foot long!

Here is my log from this activation:
20 Meter CW


The Reverse Beacon Network picked me up at 28db on 14MHz which is very good. Signal reports reflected this as well.

The neat part about this antenna is I have the 30 meter portion linked so I can link it in for 30 meters or take it out for 20 meters. NO TUNER, NO COAX and it actually PERFORMS….

Well, not so fast. On 30 meters the Reverse Beacon Network had me at 9db which is ok but not what I wanted to see. I was only able to get 3 QSOs on 30 meters. Here is my 30 meter log:

30 Meter CW:

Now, it could just be that most everyone already worked me on 20 meters and did not want to work me again on 30 meters. After all, chasers do not get any more points. There are several variables such as band conditions antenna surroundings etc. I checked RBN spots for other activators and they range to the 20s to single digits. Hard to say, I will try it again tomorrow.

It sure is nice to have an antenna that does not weight much, does not take up space and is the perfect mate tot he MTR.
The operating location along with the setup
My wG0AT built paddle, they work great!
Of course they are SOTA approved

See you on 30 meters tomorrow!

View of Pikes Peak from my shack today