Sunday, July 6, 2014

Kaufman Ridge High Point and Aspen Ridge (W0C/SP-081 and W0C/SP-084) or Two Years Doing SOTA

The 4th of July weekend is usually one weekend that Lynn and I stay home while everyone else is out camping. Our reason is simple, just too many people and too many unsafe roads. However, our new thing has been SOTA and two years ago on the 4th of July weekend, more precisely the 5th of July, Lynn and I completed our first SOTA activation of Midland Hill near Buena Vista Colorado.

That set us down a journey that continues today. That first activation was not without its problems but we did enjoy it and we always go back to Midland Hill every year. This year we did it early to pickup the bonus points. Normally Mount Herman is a first SOTA activation for people in the Front Range and we attempted Mount Herman in May of 2012 but I was unable to complete it. I got to the boulder field within 300 feet of the summit and stopped, unable to go any further.

Now I am looking at doing my first 14er hike this summer!

So, in keeping with our new tradition Lynn and I headed to the general area of Midland Hill and decided to camp at the base of Kaufman Ridge HP. As a bonus our friend Nick was able to join us.

We drove the Jeeps out to the valley and setup base camp. Nick has not camped in a while and had misplaced the poles for his tent so rather than bag it he decided to make the best of it. I had some rope packed and we just hung the tent up the best we could. If it would rain I am pretty sure Nick would have to retreat to his Jeep but we got lucky. It ended up looking like something Spiderman would have put together. I really admired Nick for staying out there as most people would have left calling it a day.
Jeeps at base cam
Nick and Lynn string up the tent, Spiderman style
After we got setup we headed up to the summit of Kaufman Ridge. It is not a long hike but it is a steady steep hike and that wears on you a bit. There was a threat of storms the whole hike but we were getting lucky and stayed dry. We sure could hear the static on HF as the storms moved around us.

Kaufman Ridge HP is not a great summit but you do get some good views to the West.
Kaufman Ridge High Point
After I setup the antenna I noticed the time I guessed for our activation was 2300Z which is what I posted as an alert and we were four minutes ahead of that time. I thought this was going to be pretty easy especially since our APRS beacon was getting in and I had the correct summit listed (sometimes I don't).

Well I was wrong, Lynn called CQ for 30 minutes with nothing. I was able to get a SMS spot in followed by another but unknown to us the bloody server was acting up. I think it was a plot by the Old Country to teach us a lesson on our Independence Day.

I had enough and went to CW and was able to get a few QSOs thanks to some vigilant hams out there. I also announced at the end of my run on CW that we would be on SSB and I think that helped as K6EL made a rare appearance on SSB for Lynn.

We finished up our pitiful activation with me still scratching my head as to what went wrong. Of course in the back of my mind I was pissed because we are demonstrating ham radio to Nick and I really wanted to have a pileup for Lynn so he could listen to all the stations. That did not happen.

Lynn, KC0YQF on Kaufman
Nick, no call yet, on Kaufman
Your author, K0JQZ on Kaufman
We headed down the summit and was glad to get back to base camp. We ate, chatted and I hit the sack soon after Lynn. It started to chill down and I would guess it was in the high 30s at nightfall but we were at 10,000 feet so it does get cool. It was a nice break from the triple digit heat in the Fountain Valley.

I was not sure about the next days summit. I did not do the summit I had planned because I realized Lynn had never been up Aspen Ridge and I figured she would like it so that is where we went. The road is very nice until the last 1.5 miles and it turns into a Jeep Trail but we both had our Jeeps so up we went.

Aspen Ridge
We noticed a few camp grounds that we may visit in the future that had no one in them. On the way down it was a different story but it just goes to show you that you can find a good spot even on the 4th of July without many people around.

They call this Aspen Ridge for a reason and we really enjoyed the hike through the Aspen Groves.
Lynn coming up
You just kind of break out of the Aspens near the top
Nick checking out the area

Picture time
Midland Hill as seen from Aspen Ridge (our first SOTA summit)
Looking towards Buena Vista
I used the LNR Trail Friendly EF antenna on this summit. Instead of operating under the big tree I decided to move to the sun (it was a little chilly) and use the tree to support one end of the EF and use the hiking pole attached to a fence post for the other end.

Again, like Kaufman, Lynn calls CQ for 30 minutes. I spot her via SMS THREE TIMES and nothing. She continues to call CQ and finally makes contact with Gary and his XYL Darlene (W5ODS and N9BVK) and then nothing. Lynn does not give up and she makes two more QSOs. I am baffled at whats going on and am thinking that everyone must be enjoying the 4th of July away from their radios.

I made no QSOs on CW so we packed up and headed down. It is a great summit so we enjoyed our time regardless of the lack of pileups. I was starting to think there may be an equipment issue but all the stations we did work were coming in pretty good and we got good reports back.

After this summit we headed home 100 miles to the East. Once I got back I checked our spots and saw one spot for Lynn by Glenn, N4MJ, who was the last person she worked so not only were our SMS spots not getting in it looked like Reverse Beacon Network was a no go as well. From what I have read it looks like it was sever problems or something although I saw a number of spots for other activators.

The last two years doing SOTA has been fun. I learned a lot, I am off ALL medications and as a bonus Lynn and I get to play radio together. How cool is it to have your spouse enjoy doing what you are doing. I never have to justify buying new radios hi hi.

Here is the video of our activation:

Thanks Nick for hanging out with us!!!!!

73 from Frank and Lynn

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