Sunday, October 27, 2013

SOTA Activation of Capulin Volcano (W5N/SG-009) New Mexico

Capulin Mountain is an 8 pointer just across the border into New Mexico. Lynn and I decided to make it a weekend and pickup 8 points. I had thought about doing another summit on the way to Taos but I was beat from activating Capulin and from driving most of the day.

Capulin erupted around 60,000 years ago and had 4 main lava flows that still define a part of the landscape in this area. There is much more info HERE.

The visitor center and park are very nice. There were only three cars including ours in the packing lot the hour we were up there. I do not think they get a lot of traffic but it was well worth the 5 dollar entrance fee.

We hiked up to the tallest part and setup on a park bench. Lynn really liked being able to sit down on a bench vice the cold hard ground. With the wind chill I would imagine it was in the low 30s up there. It was a challenge to find a spot out of the wind. I thought we did until the wind the wind changed direction so we had to tough it out for the rest of the activation.
KC0YQF in at the SOTA Jeep getting gear
Nice parking area and rest rooms
Even nicer trail to follow
More of the trail
Lynn leads the way
Our destination
 Once a good location was found we setup the KX3 and 58 foot long wire. Lynn started us off on 20 meters SSB and quickly exhausted all callers for her. I know the WW SSB Contest was on but we found a clear freq and went to work.

KX3 at the bench operating location
Lynns Log:
20 Meter SSB


I took over after Lynn was done and hit 12 meter CW just to check the conditions. I was surprised.
12 Meter CW:


Then onto 30 meters for more locals:

WG0AT    S2S from Mount Herman

I looked for Dan, NA6MG, but by the time my SOTA Goat spot had came up Dan had moved to 10 meters and I could not hear him. Of course I was thrilled to get France and Finland on 12 meters. From this part of the country that is great DX. The KX3 and 58 foot long wire performed great. I did get the antenna roller stuck in a tree and broke the wire but Lynn was able to retrieve it. I am glad I did not have to leave it there since it had Rooster's picture and Rooster's company name "Goat Berries" is on it and I did not want Rooster to get ticketed for littering in a National Park.
Rooster approved winder
View from the top
Another view
Frank K0JQZ
After we got done we decided to hike to the bottom of the center part of the volcano. Timing is everything, we made it out ok without any eruptions.

The bottom looking up
Volcano plumbing in case you are interested
After our activation we headed to Taos. Lynn and I have spent a lot of time in Taos and we stayed at our usual place and relaxed and had a good dinner. We got up early and knew the ballon people were in town so we got another show.

Great stuff, we thought of Martha and Gary (W0ERI and W0MNA) as we marveled at the lighter than air craft.

On the way home we stopped in San Luis Colorado just across the border on the Colorado side.  San Luis is the oldest town in Colorado established in the mid 1800's. Also, San Luis has the Station of the Cross Shrine. Read more about it HERE. The church overlooks the town and I have seen it many times but never stopped until today. It is not a SOTA summit but a neat place to check out if you are so inclined.
The old church
Lynn as we went up to the church
The Mayor
Our ascent and descent was under the escort of "The Mayor". We asked one of the locals about this dog that pretty much stuck to our side on the way up and down and she said they call him "The Mayor" and he spends most of his days walking up and down with people. He stayed with us the whole time, save when a rabbit crossed our path.

The Shrine is not a SOTA summit but there is a four pointed on the other side of town that looks like it could be driven up but we did not explore it today.

It was good weekend with some Ham Radio and some exploring the area mixed in.

Thank you chasers!



I cannot remember how I found this stuff but I recently ordered some Sugru. I now carry one packet in my backpack for that just in case scenario. To find out more visit their website at HERE

My camp cup that I always burn my fingers on when hot

sugru pack

Applied to the cup (I also did this to my big boil pot)
I did a test and was surprised at how well this stuff holds up to heat. No more burning my fingers when camping.

What can I use this stuff for next?


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Zombie Shuffle 2013

This year I participated in the "Zombie Shuffle" somewhat by accident. The event got some good press and was all over the regular QRP reflectors and forums but it just slipped my mind.

I just happened to be in the shack when I heard NN9K calling CQ BOO so I went back to him and started my very small 2013 Zombie Shuffle effort.

This event is put on by Paul, NA5N, and Jan, N0QT, every year since 1998. Here is the link

I like these events and think they are great for the QRP community.

Incidentally my score was 12,049 and the top operators will mostly likely have a score in the millions of points.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Signal Butte (W0/FR-165) AGAIN 17 Oct 2013

 It may had been too early to try a summit after returning from sea level in NC but I wanted to get out and Signal Butte is one of my favorites when I do not need other people around. It is an easy to get to TH and there are several campers/hunters/ATVers out in this area of the Pike National Forest but no one near Signal Butte. The 20 minute hike took me about 40 minutes but I took a lot of breaks so I would not sweat as it was 42 degrees at the TH and I would guess around the high 30s at the actual summit.
Signal Butte from the TH
I decided to keep things simple and took the Steve Weber designed Mountain Topping Radio or MTR and an EFHW. The MTR is only 2 bands (20 and 30 meters) and the EFHW is for 20 meters only. It has a matching network to control the high impedance and judging from the signal reports I was getting it worked very well. I can separate the wire from the network and plug in an Elecraft T1 tuner so I could use the same wire for 30 meters. However, I could not get the tuner to work (turned out to be operator error) and I forgot a BNC adapter to plug into it but think I could had made that work if I took the time to actually learn how to use the tuner before I went out...

Notebook/pen, case for paddles, MTR, Pico Mini Paddles, Earphones and battery
Hard to see but the United States Air Force symbol is on the headphones. I think they match the MTR pretty good!!!! 

You can barley see the antenna wire lower right
The matching network supported by the walking stick
Looking down at my operating position
The view from my shack
Pikes Peak
I had a great time and made around 40 QSOs including Mexico and one other Summit to Summit. Thanks N7CW for finding me for the S2S QSO. Thanks to all the chasers out there. The pileup was very intense and fun. I was able to capture the one and only S2S I had on audio before the batteries went south. I would apologize for the poor quality but it sounds very much like it did from the little MTR with a cheap external USB speaker. 

(the video is very hasty so nothing fancy, it took me way too long to figure out how to add scrolling text)

My 20 Meter CW Log:

N7CW  Summit to Summit
Good to hear a few new calls out there actively chasing.

Trail just below the summit

Hayman Burn still very evident, eleven years later

Looking West

Leaves about all gone


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

My SOTA Antennas

I do not know much about a great many things. Antenna design is one of those things. There is a lot of theory behind them and over the years I have used many different types from portable loops to the USAF AN/FLR-9 (also known as the Elephant Cage).

Half the fun of SOTA for me, is trying and building different antennas. Three antennas have become my favorites, the 58 Foot Longwire, the Linked Dipole and the EFHW. I will talk about the dipole and the long wire.

So why these antennas? Well, I have a few requirements.

1. Light weight
2. Easy to deploy and secure
3. Does not cost much
4. Good Performance

For the record, I have a buddistick, buddipole and many buddipole add-ons and love experimenting with different configurations. I also built a homemade buddipole for not much cost from Budd's plans that he openly post on the Internet. The Buddipole system works great from a car or camper and that is how I use it. It falls short for most of my SOTA activations because I do want to haul up it up a SOTA summit however, I have configured a buddistick vertical that performs great that I have taken up summits when I know I will have limited space. It works great, it is easy to assemble and break down, easy to match to the specific freq you want to work but it is a little heavy and bulky.

I have used an Alexloop and although I did not do an A/B comparison I feel (only my opinion) that it would be adequate for a few contacts on the higher bands but for 30 meters and below I would not expect too much from it. I have not attempted to construct one as I feel the performance to labor, parts and cost ratio is not worth it. The commercial version cost way too much and takes up too much space in a pack and is not a solid performer so it is a no-go. I found it rather cumbersome to put together and take apart. However, some people swear by them and it is a fact that any antenna will work sometimes and at 10,000 feet a dummy load might work too. It is a personal decision on what works for you and what does not.

My home antenna changes but my mainstay is a highly modified Hustler 6BTV that also works on 12, 17 and 160 meters. Its performance on 40 meters and below is lack luster but  it performs as well as my G5RV to the point that I can rarely tell them apart with an A/B comparison.

Onto SOTA Antennas. I found that I am making antennas specifically for the radio I am using. For my 20 meter only radio, like the Rockmite, I use a EFHW feed with 6 feet of RG174 and it works great.

For the ATS4b which has 80, 40, 20 and 15 meters I use the linked dipole feed with 25 feet of RG174. Here are some pictures of it:

Center of Dipole
You can see the center connector as nothing more than a BNC connector. I picked up a few of these at a hamfest.
Center connector

The links in the linked dipole
The connectors are from Hobbyking and are 2 mm in size.
The linked separated for band changes
Here is a link to the linked dipole instructions I used. The instructions came from WA3WSJ's web site which is worth a look. I added a few inches to 20 meters and also added a 15 meter section to the end so NO TUNER required. The lack of a tuner is important because the ATS4b does not have one built in and I do not want to carry one along with extra cable.

This antenna meets most all of my criteria to some degree. It is light (number 26 teflon wire helps). It is easy to deploy, assuming you have the space for a 40 meter dipole with center support, and secure. It performs like you would expect a resonate dipole above 9,00 feet to perform, great!  There is not much cost associated with this antenna. I could most likely make 10 or 12 more without purchasing anything more than what is already in my junk box.

I do not use any type of winders, they just take up space. I butterfly all my antennas and coax using a method I learned while processing 5 level paper tape in the late 70s. Here is a short video of me demonstrating how it is done.

Winding it this way makes it easy to deploy and secure.

The disadvantage is coax is required to feed it. RG-174 is what I use due to weight and it is less bulky than RG-58 but it is lossy although it is irrelevant for my purposes.

It is great mated to the ATS4b which is why I built it.

ATS4b mated to the Linked Dipole on a SOTA summit, what fun!

The next antenna I have been using a lot is the 58 foot longwire. I cannot take credit for this (or any other antenna for that matter) as Steve, wG0AT started using this design along with the Coleman Clothes Line Winder as the device to secure and deploy it. The first time I used it I was hooked. For the KX3 this is a perfect antenna. I have never tried it below 40 meters yet but I am betting it tunes ok.

It is 58 feet of number 26 teflon coated wire secured to the winder with about 20 feet of fly fishing line. Total cost, around 4 dollars! Does it perform, you bet. Is it easy to deploy? As easy as using a fishing pole or throwing the end up in a tree.

Antenna wound up and BNC connector

Just connect the wire to the red connector (no counterpoise)
Connected tot he KX3
Rooster approved antenna
Stock winder from Coleman
Just twist to open
Tie 20 feet or so of fly fishing line to the center and the 58 feet of wire to the fly line. 
You may need to enlarge the hole a bit
Just throw it in the pack and go play radio!!!!!

I have seen those coleman laundry cloths winders for 2 to 7 dollars. I found mine at the PX on Fort Carson for around 2 dollars and bought the last one. I check every time I go there just in case more show up. You may be able to find them on-line cheaper. The wire I purchased from a local supplier but the wireman may have something similar.

So there you have it. I do not know what the theory says about any of these antennas. I do know they work and do not cost much. There are a lot of companies out there that make antennas for "portable" operations. I am sure some of them are great but their definition of portable is probably different from my definition.

Set your requirements and build or buy what you think will fill those requirements the best.