Sunday, December 21, 2014

Knights Peak (W0C/FR-144) with wG0AT Boo and Peanut

Steve and I decided to do another Friday activation before Christmas. It was a cool day in the Front Range expected to get into the 40s and it was a balmy 19 degrees at the TH of Knights Peak.

Knights Peak is off of Old Stage/Gold Camp Road and very near to 9410 which we activated last week. I got no points for this one as I have already activated it this year but still a lot of fun.

Unloading the Goats is a lot easier than loading them

Boo and Peanut are waiting for the humans

I would guess it was in the single digits in the shade, Brrrr
My APRS Jeep track from work to home to the TH and our Hike
Once on the summit the sun felt great. It was still cold and we had to deal with sweaty clothes so we changed into dry stuff and had lunch. In sort order we deployed the 58 foot longer and connected it to the KX3. Steve got everything setup and went to 15 meters to stir up some activity. The first one to call was Wes Hayward, W7ZOI. Wes is a legend in the area of portable Trail Friendly radios and has been doing this stuff for a long time. His radio designs are worth reading.

Steve stays warm with a hot thermos of unknown contents

Steve at work

The KX3

Homemade paddles and iphone logbook (high speed low drag for sure)
Santa representing
The area
After Steve runs down the pileup and there are no other callers he announces that we are going to 10 meters. Not too long ago that would be enough to get a few chasers over to 10 meters and get spotted but with the Reverse Beacon Network we get a little lazy so after a while of calling CQ I decide to self spot myself via APRS.

At 1932Z my APRS beacon goes in
It was slow going on 10 meters but most of the stations I worked were fairly strong and I could hear a lot of activity on the band. N4EX in NC was booming into Colorado. 10 Meters is amazing when it is open. I did not think of it at the time but we should had checked 6 meters as well.

Peanut Helps

Peanut provides fills when I miss a callsign

Great views from our shack
 While we were getting ready to head down we heard a a couple of C-130s and looking to the North we could see one flying at 13,000 to 15,000 feet and the other at 10,000 feet and he or she flew over Frosty Park which is the TH for Mount Rosa and not too far from us. Unfortunately the battery in my GoPro died and the other one was in the pack. A missed opportunity but very cool to see.

Peanut having a Zen moment

Boo helping out

The video is a little longer than I wanted and I had to cut out some great footage to get it to this length. That is always the hard part when you have 3 hours of video to choose from. The purpose of my videos is not a "how to" guide to hike, SOTA or even Ham Radio they are just meant to show how much fun taking your radio into the field can be. If they inspire one ham to get out and do a SOTA activation or of they get a non-ham interested in ham radio then they have served their purpose. I do have a lot of fun making them.

Here it is


Saturday, December 13, 2014

SOTA Activation of W0C/FR-168 or 9410 by K0JQZ and wG0AT

I simply had a blast! It was a perfect Colorado day with temps in the 50s and little to no wind. On this activation I took my new PX3 and decided to give PSK31 a whirl. It would have helped to preload the memories in the KX3 for the PSK31 exchanges as it would simply become a matter of pushing the correct memory button. Of course I would rather do it the hard way and send everything with the paddles. Sending PSK31 via morse code input was interesting. I like that I could hear the CW characters, see the translation on the PX3 display and hear the PSK31 signal all at once. At first it was a bit of sensory overload but you get used to it.

Elecraft not only makes great products and has great customer support (I know that first hand). The equipment and features are obviously developed by people that are hams and actually operate. The same cannot be said for many other companies and you can tell by their products and the way common features are three layers down in a menu system.

Steve decided to have a little show and tell at the TH with his new OG Spy Radio built by the radio spy master W0RW himself. It is really cool.... I am beat so the rest of this blog post is just pictures and a video at the end.

We had a "Show and Tell" at the TH with the OG Spy Radio
Too heavy to haul up the Mountain but OG is working on a solution
wG0AT "Old Goat" running a 20 meter pileup
The KD1JV designed 2 band MTR
Commercial Antennas above Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station
Steve's antenna weight (works great)
Great Shack
Summit Registry (I never seen one on this summit in the past, good to see)
Great Views
Mount Rosa in the center
Our APRS Track
K0JQZ spotted on PSK!!!

Now sit back with Mister Mann and enjoy the video.

Mister Mann watching the video (he is not impressed and is very critical)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Elecraft PX3 for Christmas (and Mister Mann)

Because I have been good I received an Elecraft PX3 kit from Elecraft (er Santa) a bit early. The package came in pretty late in the evening but after work the following day I got busy building the kit.

Total build time was about 35 minutes and would had been shorter if I took my own advice and read the instructions all the way through before diving in. Regardless, the kit went together without issue and was decoding PSK31 and CW in no time.

Here is a short video of the build. It is NOT a "how to" video or very informative, it is just for fun.

Searching youtube I found a few videos that were very helpful for those that want better information on building and using the PX3.

Here is a very good "How to assemble the PX3" video by W2AEW:

Here is one from JD Dupuy, N0IRS, that covers the current firmware features:


A few months ago a very starving and injured kitty came knocking on our back deck. I could see his spine and he looked like he got beat up pretty bad with blood, scabs and dirt everywhere. It took a long time before he would approach us but we feed him and provided him with a little dog house with a heated pad to keep him warm on the cold Colorado nights. Eventually he would let me approach him without hissing and soon I was able to handle him.

Here he is before he got comfortable with us:

He is limping very badly with his left paw

Waiting for food from the humans
After examining him I discovered that somehow he had a claw ripped out and that was what was causing him to limp. With food, water and shelter he soon started to get better and he also coming up to us after a few more weeks. Since we have two female indoor cats I decided to take Mister Mann (that name seemed appropriate) to the vet and get him checked out. The vet ran some blood test and discovered that he has Feline Aids. Most likely due to all the cuts all over his body.

When the temp dropped below zero we decided to bring him in and keep him separated from the other two cats and Mister Mann lived in my Ham Shack for a few nights.
Mister Mann fast asleep under my desk
Not too long after that he got into another fight and his right paw has swollen to twice its normal size. It turned out that he got bit and the puncture was invected. The doctor made sure it would drain and while we had him under we had him fixed as to not infect a little of new kittens. Both our doctors advised us to have him put down but I could not do it. He did not ask for this and he is a very good natured cat. I figured he was someones pet at one time.

After his surgery he lived in the ham shack 24/7 for over a week while he healed. He seems to not mind living in my ham shack at night and I enjoy his company as the girls like to stay upstairs. We gave him a bath and cleaned his ears and he gets brushed everyday. He is putting on weight and has really been well behaved in the house. I know the older cat is not too found of his scent but the younger cat seems to want to play with him.

All our cats are rescues and while I wanted a dog, Mister Mann has become a part of the family.

His favorite spot

His other favorite spot

Looking into the cold night


He has separate food and water, litter and living space due to his infection. He sure did nothing wrong to deserve that disease and certainly does not deserve to be put down. We will make him as comfortable as possible while protecting the other two cats. I am sure Mister Mann will make a few more appearances on my blog and videos.


Friday, November 28, 2014

Just a hike in the forest

Today Lynn and I headed out to the Pike National Forest. No SOTA and in fact I did not bring a HF radio at all. Just the 2 meter to use the APRS function and listen to a local repeater that is near Cheyenne Mountain. This was just a hike to get outside and enjoy the 60 plus degree weather we had today.

Here was our route.
4.4 miles total
The snow made the trail a little tricky in some spots. We took the McNiel Trail to the old water pump and decided to head back to a clearing we found in order to have lunch. After lunch we headed back to the Jeep. We went pass the intersection to the McNeil Trail and I could see that someone went up the trail wearing spikes. It is steep enough to justify spikes just about any time of the year.

I did take note of the coordinates for the intersection of the McNeil Trail which are: N 38.74898 degrees by W 104.87457 degrees. The altitude was 8467 feet which means it is about 1000 feet below the true summit of Cheyenne Mountain.

The Trail

Lynn making her way through the snow

Lynn on the Trail

The Old Water Pump

frozen waterfall
K0JQZ on the trail

Sorry but no ham radio content to this blog post however, I did get 75 feet of coax in the mail today. I mis-remembered and actually needed 100 feet, so another 25 feet is on order. I am trying to get my 2 meter and 70 Centimeter working better since Lynn and I have been using 2 meters to chat during bad weather when she is making the long trek out to her school. I was never much for two meters or repeaters but I am surprised at how little activity there is. I did have my APRS beacon on today as you can see below.

K0JQZ-7 APRS track

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The American Morse Mini B

Today I received the American Morse Mini B single level paddle. I put it together in about 30 minutes. It does have a lot of tiny parts so caution is advised. 

I have yet to use it but have used American Morse Paddles in the past and they work as advertised. I also have the Rock Mite case Doug Hauff makes which has a real cool factor besides being bullet proof. Doug does excellent machine work and these things go together with a fine precision that is lost on some other kits. 

The instructions to put this together can be found on-line and are well documented. I found no mistakes and the text and pictures made it fool proof.

The unpacking of the kit

A lot of tiny parts

Before making the adjustments

Need to add a cable and ready to go to the field

I will have to run to radio shack to get the cable, Doug even supplies the Radio Shack part number in case you need it. This is heavier than the pico paddles (2.4 OZS without the cable) but I think they are real sturdy and sometimes that is more important.