Monday, May 26, 2014

SOTA Activation of Devils Head fire tower (W0C/FR-051) 26 May 2014

This was kind of a last minute activation. If I had thought about it we would have also done a 2 pointer near this one as well but I was not confident in my ability to get there without instructions so we just did Devils Head.
Lynn at TH sign

Great day temp wise and not a lot of wind. There was the threat of an evening thunderstorm but such is life in the Rockies during the spring time.

We used an Elecraft KX3 along with a Buddipole Vertical. I set up the vertical in the backyard last night and made sure the taps were in the right spots, they were.

There were a few cars at the TH, maybe 10 or so. However, there is overnight camping in that area so I thought some of them could belong to tent campers. As we headed up we saw very few people, stopping to talk to one young couple about the gopro that was on my walking stick and some other hikes in the area. We made our way up and it was a rare event to be the only people in the fire tower, besides Bill but he works there.

Halfway point

Lynn enjoying the views

I talked to Bill about setting up an antenna and he mentioned another rock formation (that we actually passed). He told us how to summit and we were off, but not before Lynn picked up a few free goodies from Bill for her kids at school.

There were a few kids about but they left and one other couple that summited that rock with us. A few other guys came over to chat about what we were doing and that was it. Glancing at the fire tower from time to time I notice how packed it was. I was grateful we were not operating from there but did have a direct view over to it. There is a rule that not more than five people at a time on the tower. Maybe they gave up today.

I was surprised at the amount of people we passes on the way down and I should have taken a video of that but my knee was giving me problems so I was thinking about trying not to put too much weight on it. Near the TH we passed a few people that were smoking on the way up. I used to smoke but I was kind of disgusted that people would do that on a trail in the National Forest with all the fires we have had in the last few years. I do not want to sound negative but it did surprise me a bit.

It was difficult to get out of the parking area. Difficult if you had a normal size car. We got in and were out of the parking lot in a flash. I love the two door Jeep for just this reason. There were cars parked from the TH all the way to he gate that closes off that road in the winter. I would guess about 1.5 miles away.

Other than that it was a perfect activation. Considering the amount of people I could not have asked for a better spot to setup and operate. Thanks Bill for the tip!

I forgot to turn the audio recorder on so I do not have any audio of the activation. Sorry about that. I had to loop some iMovie music through the 14 minutes of play time.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Switching Power Supply from Gamma Research, Inc.

Like most Hams I have a few power supplies.  I actually shy away from switched power supplies due to the fan and noise but that was about to change when I saw this one at the Dayton FDIM event. This Power Supply was not really being marketed but was being used to power a K2 at a demonstration table.

What struck me first was the small size and then of course the specs. I do not do impulse purchases very often but if it was for sale I think I would have bought it right there.

The LED lights up "Green" when turned on
The back and power switch

Once I returned I had time to think about it and what sold me is I have some training for work to do in Florida I thought it would be nice to have something small and light weight that I could take with me to power a radio. I will be there for a month so wanted to be able to do a little SOTA chasing.

Here are the specs and link for the Gamma Hybrid Communications Power Supply or HPS-1a:

Input Voltage:  100-250 VAC, 50-60 Hz, 2 Amps max
Output Voltage:  13.8 VDC +/- 5%
Output Current:  22 Amps at 25% duty/second and 5 amps continuous
Dimensions:  3.37" x 1.55" x 5.25"
Weight:  1.25 lbs
Price: Less than $240.00 shipped

Next to the KX3 for comparison

I ordered the power supply on a Sunday or Monday and received it on Friday. That really impressed me. I think Gamma Research may be a one man outfit.


I used the PS on the KX3, K3, K2 and HW-7 yesterday.

I was doing something to the HW-7 so it was just handy but, I notice that it did not have hardly any noise that other PSs seem to have with that radio. It was a quiet as my Linear supply modified with caps to filter it a bit for the HW-7.

The rear connector is a Molex connector which is fine. I use Anderson Powerpole connectors so I just made a cable for it. Included with the PS is a detailed view of how the Molex Connector works which makes it fool proof.

I am a QRP operator so I could not get the fan to come on until I hooked it up to the K3 and ran it at 100 watts. I transmitted into a dummy load and was able to get the fan to come on but it was very quiet. So much so I had to visually check it to see if it was moving.

I think this will work very nicely as a portable PS from a Hotel or any place with electric. I had planned to use it just like that but may incorporate it permanently into my station setup upon my return.

72 Frank

Saturday, May 24, 2014

"Vintage" SOTA Activation of Mount Herman

After fixing the HW-7 slow transmit relay circuit, thanks to KR7W, Rich; sees the write up on my blog here, I decided it was time to try the HW-7 on a SOTA summit. The weather was supposed to be nice in the morning and Lynn had work so I was off to the TH early in the AM.

My plan was to use crystal control as the HW-7 has no offset. This simply means if a station zero beats my signal I will not hear them as I will be about 600hz or more away. With a crystal my transmit frequency remains constant and I can move the receive frequency wherever I need to. Of course I had the 40 meter crystal in hand and not the 20 meter one. I only had the 20 meter antenna so I thought I would just try and make do. In short the only QSO I had was with Steve, wG0AT, on the HW-7. He was able to use his RIT and listen to me just inside his AGC. Of course we were close enough that would work but that was it. I tried to post an email to the SOTA reflector but was unable to get anything through. I will admit I did not try very hard because I do not relying o the Internet in order to play radio.

I had the KX1 as a backup and threw it into action in order to hand out a few chaser points.

I know the chasers had to think I was a total LID or was having equipment problems so I do apologize and that was the reason I went to the KX1. Hopefully everyone understands.

Everything else seemed to work ok vice the feedback I was getting into the audio recorder while it was in line with a homebuilt AF filter. I took everything out of line and just placed the recorder next to the speaker so you will hear some wind noise. I will research that sometime soon as well.

I will be back on a summit with the HW-7 but in the mean time I am researching some RIT options and maybe looking for some more crystals.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Back from Dayton 2014

I have just returned from Dayton and realized I spent under 200 dollars and that was mostly on food, transportation and yes, a few adult cold beverages.

In short, I had a blast!!!!!

I was picked up at the airport by a friend from work, Mark, WA6MVT, and he was kind enough to give me a ride to my hotel even though it was in the opposite direction he needed to be. We had a good dinner and I decide to check out the FDIM activities. This is about the time I realized I arrived a day late for the first day of FDIM. No matter, I checked out the vendors and got to chat with Steve, wG0AT, Guy, N7UN, Martha W0ERI, Gary, WoMNA, Michael, KI8R and TJ, W0EA. After the vendor night Guy, TJ and myself decided to have a few drinks and close the hotel bar. Those that know me will also know that I am very much a non-drinker so two beers had me rather drunk but the company was fantastic. Hanging out with TJ and Guy was one of the high points of this trip!

The next day was the exciting day, my first day at the Dayton Hamfest. We waited for the bus, and waited and waited and waited some more. Finally the bus showed up and off we went. I had some great conversations on the bus with whomever I was sitting next to. I met some great hams and throughly enjoyed talking with them.

Going through the doors to the Hara Arena for the first time was a bit over whelming and way too crowded, so much so that after an hour I had enough and took up a seat behind the very busy Buddipole Booth. I could not see the people in the booth but saw how deep the line was to talk with the crew and purchase their products. It was good to see as I am a big fan and user of a modified Buddistick Vertical for close in work when I have no room on a summit.

I really did not think I would make it all day or until the first bus back to the hotel at 1530 but I pressed on after a break and a snack. I had no idea how big it was until I got the nerve to venture out and about. I did not have a map so I was relying on landmarks and did pretty well. By the end of the first day I could get to where I was going and knew where the booths were that I wanted to visit again.

The second day I ran into Guy again and also Larry, W6UB, who has chased me and Lynn on many summits. Another high point for my first Dayton trip.

Did I buy anything??? Yes and no. My main purchase was to be a new paddle for the shack and maybe one for portable use. I had my eye on one and was disappointed when I saw it. Fortunately right around the corner was Tom from N3ZN keys and I was hooked. Of course Tom did not have the paddle I wanted in stock but I got to play with the demo and several others which led me to desire at least two of his paddles. I sent him an email upon my return and I am waiting for an email back to complete the order. I will review the paddles on my blog when they arrive.

The next purchase was a Trail Friendly EF from PAR LNR Precision. Actually I spent a lot of time at this booth. I also saw the FX-4 in person for the first time and was impressed. After talking to Larry I am sure that Lynn will like this radio. There is one in her future and I look forward to trying it on CW.

The next item was a power supply from Gamma Research which I just order after seeing it in action at FDIM club night. I will also review it when it arrives. Thanks to Mark, NK8Q for turning me onto this.

By far the most interesting booth was not really ham radio related. It was the Radixon display. They build signals analysis software and hardware. In fact this was my business for my over two decades in uniform, only we did not have any equipment this advanced. I talked to these guys for about 45 minutes and while I think they were just humoring me by pretending to be interested in an Old Mans war stories on various SIGINT platforms, never the less it was fun to talk to people that understood signals analysis, at least the external parameters. What fun!!!!!

My friend Mark talked me into going to see Gordo talk about what it takes to be a Ham Instructor and I did not have much interest at first but Gordo put on a great show taking complex theories and finding fun ways to demonstrate them. He is very much a showman and enthusiastic instructor. Yes, their was some pickle burning as well.

Sorry, no pictures this time. I think the next time I will take Lynn but am seriously thinking about Ozarkcon next year instead.

I will have a lot to blog about once some of the products start arriving. Plus I have a friends MTR V2 to build and plan to document that as best I can.

A special thanks to Nick, WA5BDU, for chatting with me on the bus and at the airport early in the AM while waiting for our flights.

I am glad I got to see what Dayton was about at least once but the highlife for me was the people I talked to. Even though you will not see a more concentrated collection of geeks and nerds outside of the halls of NSA, it was really the kindred spirit and being able to talk to like minded individuals that made it special for me.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

QRPTTF 2014 and SOTA Activation of Bison Peak W0C/FR-021

I had not given QRP or "Low Power" Take it to The Field (QRPTTF) event much thought this year. Not to say I did not want to participate but it just kind of creeped up on me.

A well timed email from Dave, NK0E, to myself and Steve, wG0AT, had me thinking about his proposal which was to activate the "never before activated" summit of Bison Peak in the Lost Creek Wilderness or W0C/FR-021. A little research will tell you this is not a summit to be taken lightly. It is over 6 miles, one way, from the TH and close to 4000 feet vertical gain.

Dave planned the event and I was able to secure the "NS0TA" call sign from Guy, N7UN. Thanks Guy.

Steve, wG0AT was unable to go so it was just Dave and I. We would not have any goats hauling our gear up the mountain but we really just missed the company of our good friend.

Dave's idea was simple, hike in about 1.5 miles, setup base camp, then take off for the summit the next morning. After a few hours working the event the plan was to make our way down to base camp, break camp and head home. And that is exactly how it happened, more or less.

Dave on Trail
Dave and I made it to base camp which was very nice, located on a ridge without a soul in-sight. It was a push with 30 pound packs but very achievable plus we had plenty of daylight to make camp and have dinner.

SIDE NOTE; I got the chance to try out my four season Hilleburg Akto one man tent. I was hesitant about buying it but am very pleased with it. It is heavy for a one man tent at 4 pounds but it is doubled walled and has some other features I really like. Read about it here.

After an enjoyable evening and a little star gazing we called it a night as the next morning would come early.

View from base camp

View from base camp

View from base camp
We camped off the trail so when we headed out the next morning (3 May) we had to find the trail again. No problem, Dave got us back to the trail and we went up, up and up. This trail was mostly vertical. I was having some problems above 10,000 feet and when we got to the half way point (marked by a trail sign) it was apparent that we would be trudging through the snow at least as far as we could see. This is also where most of the elevation gain takes place as evident by all the switch backs. At one point, not too far from where we would break out of this mess, I contemplated calling it quits and forgoing the activation and QRPTTF event. However, I really wanted that summit so I stuck it out and we finally broke out. The actual Summit is a few hundred feet above a very big plateau. It is hard to tell the scale from pictures but it is really massive and somewhat majestic. It is something really surreal and worthy of the effort to achieve it.

Taking a break and looking at Bison

View from our shack out of the wind

The wind and cold were almost unbearable. We looked and looked and finally found a spot somewhat out of the wind but I do not think there was a spot that was perfect. I did see a few caves but did not want to venture into them as the beers are just waking up and I really want to get at least four contacts before anything bad happened. I did have a plan to stow my food near Dave just in case a hungry beer made an appearance.

Cool Place (photo by NK0E)

RBN picked us up and a good thing because I was unable to get any SMSs out. Also I noticed that my APRS was not working all the time. I showed up as "position reported" several times through K0NR-1 but those did not show up on APRS.FI. I am not sure why. The only time my APRS beacon malfunctioned in the past it was due to operator error. I will experiment a bit more with it.

With the cold and wind it was just hard to operate. I would guess the ambient temp was in the mid to high 30s and with the windchill a bit colder.

Our combined NS0TA log is as follows:

K6EL Summit to Summit
N7UN Summit to Summit

Not a very good showing for an event that has people looking for SOTA stations besides the usual chasers but hey, sometimes good enough is just good enough. While I would have liked to explore this area more, I was ready to get off that mountain.

As soon as we dropped down to 11,500 feet is warmed up about 10 degrees. It started warming up enough to cause some problems with the snow pack we walked over to get to the summit. Now we were falling through it. We laughed a bit as we descended due to the difficulty of this summit. We also marveled at the person or persons that post-holed their way to the summit in the past as some of the holes were a good four feet deep.

The hike down was a combination of trying to concentrate on our footing and trying not to think about the pain in our joints. My knees, feet and legs are still sore as I type this.

We earned our 6 points and had a blast doing it!

We used Dave's KX3 on this activation with an EF. This was the maiden voyage of his KX3 on a summit. It worked like a champ.


 Please do not use any of my activation reports as a guide on how to summit as half the time I do not know what I am doing. Please use other sources or websites for information on conditions, difficulty and how-to guides. My activation reports are just for fun!