Sunday, February 23, 2014

"SOTA Activation of W0/SP-101" my 100th Summit Activation and "Whats in your Pack"

This SOTA stuff is addictive, fun and good exercise. I am lucky in that I have a great SOTA Elmer in Steve, wG0AT and a wife, KC0YQF, that also enjoys this crazy SOTA fun.

Some may note that my SOTA score may be low for activating 100 summits but that is because I have just as much fun going up summits that I have already activated as the ones that give me points. That is how I know I will be doing this for a long while after reaching the 1000 points required for Mountain Goat status in a few years. At least I hope to be.

W0/SP-101 is an easy four pointer near Guffey Colorado and the last time wG0AT and I activated this summit we did Three Mile first, then this one second. I remember it being a lot harder back then but I had just returned from sea level and of course we had already done one summit that day.

I allowed myself plenty of time to summit and actually came out ahead of my activation alert. When I started up the summit I decided to take a picture and promptly dropped my camera in a snow bank and the screen started to act strange so I powered it off, removed the battery and SD card and am waiting for it to dry. If it is ruined it will be camera number three that I have sacrificed to the SOTA Gods!

The setup today was my MTR and linked EF for 30 and 20 meters. It worked well and I netted the following stations:

30 Meters:

20 Meters:

Interesting to note that I worked my first QSO on 20 meters (Glenn, N4MJ) without calling CQ. I just threw a QRL? DE K0JQZ and Glenn was right there.... Thanks Glenn.

I was kind of bummed out about my camera as it was a great day for pictures. It was cold and windy so I did not spend the whole day up there. I was hoping to get a few S2Ss but no joy. It was a rather uneventful activation and not as fun as it is when KC0YQF and/or wG0AT are with me.


When I got home I started thinking about my pack weight and some of the items I carry. Everyone is different but I am reading a few Mountaineering books and they always get me thinking. 

Just for fun here is my contents.
My Pack is a Golite Jam 35
My pack is a Golite Jam 35, (read about it here).  I just bought this pack and have used it on a few activations. I am really liking it and I can carry two coats on the inside (unlike my Gregory) and it has big pockets for water bottles and anything else. The only CON is there is no hooks or loops to add webbing in the back. Other than that I love it.

My preferred SOTA HF station consist of the following:

Antenna: EF linked for 20, 30 and 40 meters with matching unit, rope, weight (ever try finding a rock on a snow covered summit).

Radio: MTR for 30 and 20 meters, ear phones, micro paddles, 11 volt and 9 volt battery (backup), pen, pencil, log book, recorder and external speaker and required cables. Of course I usually also bring my "goat paddles" in sunglass carrying case.

If I am going to a summit with no way to support an antenna I bring a fishing pole:

Fishing Pole
All of this save the fishing pole is just under 2 pounds at 1 lb, 15.5 oz without the fishing pole which is 8 oz.

My station weight can be further reduced by eliminating some redundancy like the recorder, external speaker, two sets of paddles, 40 meter link for the EF (I just keep it in the bag so I do not loose it) and extra battery, that would bring my total station weight to 1 lb 7.4 oz (with fishing pole)!!!!! However, I am unlikely do do that until I start tackling some 14ers this summer.

The station ready to be packed
In case anyone is wondering, I save all those high quality bags that Elecraft and Buddipole use to package their products. The antenna is in one such bag and it is water proof and thicker than a ziplock bag. The MTR and accessories is in a bag that I get from my dentist every visit that has various items in it. I like it because it is about the right size and it has a slot for a business card that I insert my license in along with contact info. I then tape over it making sure I can read it. Of course it would take an honest person to return it if I leave it somewhere. The odds of having it returned are better than having no contact info on it at all. I would say it is water resistant but not water proof and I would not dunk it underwater for any amount of time.

The normal contents are my pack are pictured below. I recently added a dual band HT and thermometer/compass.

My pack contents save the radio/antenna
This is my winter pack so I have two pairs of gloves, two hats and scarf. Weight is 12.07 oz.

The emergency pack which includes matches, wet fire starter, light stick, TP and wipes aka "Mountain Money," hand warmers, space blanket and two bandanas weights in at 12.05 oz. Other items I always carry are:
Dual Band Radio = 5.5 oz
GPS = 6.7 oz
Camera = 6.6 oz
Clock = 5.5 oz
Thermometer/ Compass = 1.1 oz
Multi Tool = 2.4 oz
Flashlight with beacon function = 2.8 oz
Tripod = 1.6 oz
Sit Pad = 4 oz
SOTA Flag = 2 oz
Mace Spray = 1.6 oz

NOTE: The flashlight is a little heavy but I wanted one that had the beacon as I think that would work better for a rescue effort in day and night, if required. The only problem is it uses a non-standard battery so I can carry a spare or just change it out every so often. I am still on the look out for another flashlight that meets my size, weight and functional requirements.

My pack itself weights in at 1 lb but I have a few things added like hooks etc that bring it to 1 lb 6 oz.

Not in the picture are two jackets, one outer and one inner that come in at 1 lb 4 oz and 13 oz, respectively. 

My energy water weights in at 2 lbs 4.3 oz.

If Lynn is not with me I do not carry her radio but just for grins I weighted Lynn's KX3 with 58 foot LW and battery plus paddles with case and cover and it came in at under 4 lbs at 3 lbs, 14 oz. Amazing, a contest grade station with built in tuner, mic, 13.8 volt A123 battery and antenna at under 4 pounds! Last summer we used that setup for over 3 hours (operating time) at 10 watts SSB and 5 watts CW on six SOTA activations without a recharge. There is simply nothing out there that can match that! 

If I could have just one radio the KX3 is the one. 

Please do not take what I carry as gospel. The only thing I would say that you should always carry is the ten essentials as outlined in any good Mountaineering book. I do welcome comments about backpacking, weight and new products. 


Friday, February 14, 2014

SOTA Activation of Three Mile Mountain W0/SP-107 13 Feb 2014

Against my better judgement I left Lynn at home, sick in bed. I almost turned around a few times but I know she wanted me to get an activation in. I took the day off from work to do a SOTA summit so I would not had been home regardless. Lynn convinced me it was ok and I was off to a late start.

I stopped in Woodland Park for breakfast and thought to myself that while I enjoy doing SOTA activations that they are more fun when they are shared, even with goats. Today I was solo as Steve is having fun in the sun with the Buddipole Expedition.

I got to the TH in plenty of time to make my activation time of noon MST. I had some trouble finding a spot to park since the side of the road was covered in a few feet of snow. I found a spot kind of half off dirt road so I would not sink in too far. The area Steve and I parked before was too deep and I almost got the SOTA Jeep stuck.

The SOTA Jeep parked along the side of the road in about 2 feet of snow
Three Mile Mountain
It was hard going in some spots as there was three feet of snow in the open areas and no way around them. This would had been a good hike to use snow shoes except I d not have any snow shoes and after wGoAT made me wear them up Squaw Mountain I decided I would not invest in any. It is hard work to hike with Snow Shoes but harder without. I may have to get some.

After I made the half mile trek I got in the saddle and it was a self paced walk to the summit.

The setup for this activation was the 2 band MTR (30 and 20 meters) and a linked End Fed for the same bands. I brought a support pole for the antenna which I actually used this time.

EF supported by the fishing pole
The matching section is in a tree above my operating position not seen here
Looking down at the op position
The shack with MTR, recorder, speaker, Goat Paddles, log book etc
I had some QRM or QRN on 30 meters. I am not sure what caused it but it sounded like the MTR was getting over loaded. I am going to check it out sometime soon but it could had been something as simple as a bad connection. After all, I built this thing so anything could be the problem.

Because of this I had to bail on 30 meters but managed to work a few stations before it got too bad. After that I went to 20 meters where I had no problems at all unless you think too many chasers is a problem, which I do not.

Here is my log:

30 Meter CW:

20 Meter CW:

A few notes. The ARRL Special Event Station for WI was my first QSO which was special but not the last special QSO. When I got called by W7ZOI (Wes Hayward) that really made my day. Wes and I chatted before when I was on a summit. Wes is a pioneer in Trail Radios.
From the 1976 ARRL Operating Handbook (Wes inspired many of us)

To top it off I got called by G4OBK who is an outstanding SOTAteer. Here is a link to his Blog. Phil often has his XYL, Judy, along for activations. He does some great write-ups and his blog is worth studying.

Now, working UK from the East Coast is thrilling but to actually get into the UK from the middle of the USA is really cool. Especially considering the fact that my transceiver is in an Altoids Tin and my antenna is a an EF. Phil was a solid 559 at times. Amazing stuff! I really loved hearing the G4 call sign since for a few years in the early eighties I was G4VDN.

Looking South

Looking East
Now the rest of the story.

I was having some troubles on the summit. I was finding it hard to concentrate and had to hear the calls several times before they clicked. I was getting cold but it was not that cold out maybe in the low 40s. On the way down I promptly lost my trail and went too far West and ended up looking at a small cliff. The Jeep was in sight so I was not worried and I knew what I did wrong. I found a way down and made it back to the Jeep only stopping once. I could not find my trail across the field because the wind had already covered it, amazing! When I got back I texted Lynn and threw everything in the back of the Jeep. I wanted to get a drink of water but apparently had left my water bottle on the summit. I started thinking "What else did I leave?" The only thing I would have gone back for was the "goat paddles" as they cannot be replaced but I had those secured in a sunglass case.

NOTE: Most everything of value has my name, address, phone number and email on it just in case a loose it and someone honest finds it. That may not work but then again I figure I have a better dance of retrieval if someone finds an item labeled that way.

Once on the road I called Lynn and realized that I was coming down with something as well. My nose was running and I was still having concentration issues. I made it home, took a very hot shower and knew that I was sick. I got the cold sweats and spent the rest of the day in bed. I tried to do this blog last night but only made it about halfway through so I am finishing it up today.

I feel much better today but will take it easy today and maybe do a few projects around the shack and maybe look into the MTR to see if it was a radio problem. As it turned out I left nothing on the summit. I found the water bottle inside my pack instead of in the outside pocket. I guess it is a good thing I left when I did. I hate unorganized packing.

I wish 30 meters had worked out better. However, I am still thrilled about the activation and the QSOs I had.

Thanks Chasers, it was a grand time.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Another linked dipole (Heavy Duty)

Sometime ago I ordered the wrong size gold connectors from Hobby King and ended up with 4mm vice the 2mm that I wanted. I did reorder but decided to keep the 4mm connectors as I figured they may come in handy one day. Today was the day!

After using my light weight SOTA linked dipole that covers 15, 20, 30 and 40 meters, read about it here, I decided to make a heavy duty (HD) version of the same dipole. In practice I would rather use an End Fed on a summit vice a dipole however, the HD linked dipole would come in handy at a base camp and I wanted to have an antenna capable of more than a couple of watts.

I used 18 gage wire (vice 26 gage teflon coated wire), 4 mm (vice 2 mm) connectors and a BNC connector for the center. Here are the measurements I used. Your measurements/requirements will vary depending on the portion of the band you want it resonate, mine is cut for the CW QRP portion of each band.

Linked Dipole measurements
This of course is not a hard build but it can be time consuming. Eventually I got into a rhythm and everything went together without incident.

The supplies

Center connector
 I am in the habit of adding fingernail polish to the screw and nut in order to hold them together. You could use Loctite as well but mine is stashed away in a tool bag somewhere.

The ends of the 20 meter section

With the connectors

The 30 meter section with connectors

20 and 30 meter section tied together

and connected.....

Progress thus far (I keep the antenna wrapped up as I go as it is easier to work with this way)
The video below demonstrates how I wrap my antennas. I am using an end fed zepp in the video but it works well with dipoles. This way I do not need to use anything to wrap the wires with and the antenna deploys with getting tangled. It works very well.

CAUTION: It does take practice!!!!!!

I had plenty of help during this build!

SOTA kitty helps by holding one end of the 40 meter section

The 15 meter stub with loop for support rope (also the end section of the dipole)

Completed antenna
It is helpful to use a different color of wire for each section. Ideally I would rather use bright colors but I did not have any on hand. Of course you can make it using the same color wire but for ease of section/band identification it may be helpful to use bright color shrink wrap.

This antenna is not anything new but it is easy, inexpensive and fun to make. It is heavier than anything else I use but much lighter than a G5RV and easier to deploy. Moreover, no tuner is required!

Too cold today to test it (18 degrees as I write this) but I will get down to the park and give it a go next week sometime.


Saturday, February 8, 2014

Rockmite 30 II build

Today is a perfect day for a SOTA activation however, I decided to stay home and finish the Rockmite 30 II I started last night. See the video below for the build but just a few comments.

I picked 10.106 as the freq as it is close to 10.111 which is the freq for SOTA activity. Also, I used an Altoids tin for this one so I could try out the Hand-punch I picked up from Grizzly. It worked great!

Output is about 150 to 200 milliwatts with a 9 volt battery but I have not done an accurate  power measurement yet.

I finished it up early enough that I can tackle some other projects like the hi-mite 200hz CW filter and a new linked dipole.