Monday, June 30, 2014

A little fun on Field Day

Lynn and I did not really participate in Field Day but I wanted her to see what it was all about. We drove up to a Field Day site near Castle Rock Colorado and checked out the setup.

Field Day is part educational event, part operating event, part public relations event and it is designed to use emergency power, temporary antennas and locations and show the public how Amateur Radio works and the value it brings. The objective is to talk to as many stations as possible in a 24 hour period. Hams use digital modes, Phone, Morse Code and bounce signals off the moon, use satellites to relay signals back to earth and talk directly to the International Space Station. However, the most important part of Field Day is getting would be hams involved!

All this Field Day stuff probably seemed normal to Lynn because it is the exact thing we do for each SOTA summit we activate only more antennas, more power and a lot more people and food.

This group had a GOTA or "Get On The Air" station manned by Master Ham Instructor Stu, W0STU, so Lynn felt comfortable jumping in and making a few QSOs.

I did not have my camera with me so this is all done on the iPhone and the trailer is a "just for fun" video.



Special thanks to Stu, W0STU!

73 from Frank and Lynn
.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Threemile Mountain and the LNR Precision End Fed Trail Friendly Antenna

We made a last minute decision to head up Threemile Mountain last weekend. Lynn and I both had a good weekend of spending time with her students on a summer school trip to Bents Fort near La Junta Colorado and also have been cleaning out closets and generally downsizing.

It was a nice break to get out to a summit and do a little radio. Since I did a video report of our activation I will talk a little about the LNR End Fed antenna.

Here is the video of the activation:


I had no intentions of buying the LNR Precision EF Trail Friendly antenna but after meeting the LNR Precision staff at Dayton and seeing the display antenna I decided to give it a whirl. I ordered it at the hamfest and it was on my doorstep shortly thereafter. Here is the writeup from the LNR web site:

“Trail-Friendly”

EFT-10/20/40 Trail Friendly
EFT-10/20/40 Trail Friendly
LNR Precision also offers the NEW “Trail Friendly” version of the popular Multi-band QRP 10/20/40 EndfedZ antenna. The new “EFT-10/20/40 Trail Friendly” is an enhancement of the EF-10/20/40 MKII offering a lightweight but strong 26G polystealth wire (opposed to 18G).  The matchbox (BNC connection) is much smaller and the total weight of the antenna comes in at an amazing 3.5OZ. The overall storage dimensions is 5.25″ x 2″ x 2.5″ and is perfect for your mobile needs. Also it is the first of our EndfedZ antennas to come with our “rewind” storage bar for easy deployment/storage. More details will be coming (along with specs and pictures) but we are already taking orders on our purchase page and units will ship just a few days upon order placement. The EFT-10/20/40 Trail Friendly offers the same superb quality you have come to expect with all of our EndFedZ antennas and we know you will be pleased. Be the first in your club to show off this hot new antenna!  

I found the antenna to be everything they advertise it to be.

Small and light weight (perfect)
This thing is small and well built. The only weak point is in the antenna radiator which attaches to the matching network without any strain relief. That would not normally be a problem and do not think it would be an issue with normal use. However, I am pretty brutal on antennas and sometimes break things trying to get deployed fast on a SOTA summit. This was no different and I promptly broke the lug that attaches the radiator to the matching network during its first use. No matter, I just stripped the wire, tied it in a knot and reattached it. Now it has a little strain relief.

Antenna wire reattached
Here you can see the wire and 40 meter coil deployed on a SOTA summit
The other end in an old snag with 15 feet of RG-174
Since I did not tune the antenna before bringing it out I decided to check it to make sure. It was a little long so I trimmed it a bit and it was spot on. I tuned it for 40 meters first (this is probably backwards) as I figured it would be a little narrow on that band and broader on 20. It is now resonate for 40 meters CW and is resonate across the entire 20 and 10 meter band.

Easy to tune, light weight, no tuner required and easy to deploy..... almost perfect.

This antenna will be easy to modify for other bands such as 17 meters (maybe 15 meters) but I really need 30 meters. I think that a 30 meter stub after the 40 meter coil may work and I plan to experiment with that this summer.

The winding system is unique and I think ingenious. However, I have my own method of winding end feds and will probably remove the winder in favor of my hand winding method that I showed in my Aspen Ridge video on my youtube channel. (search for KA4JQZ then look for the Aspen Ridge video or look for my post on Aspen Ridge).

In order to remove the winder I will have to find another way to provide strain relief for the coil section but I have some ideas. I will post updates as I modify this antenna.

Overall I am very pleased with this antenna and impressed with the folks at LNR Precision.

I look forward to their re-release of the FX4 as I think they build a quality product.

Please feel free to ask any questions.

73
Frank
K0JQZ


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Cheesman Mountain W0C/FR-089 Activation 15 June 2014

Lynn had just returned from WI after visiting with her folks for a week. She wanted to do an easy hike and of course she wanted to get a few points if possible. I had researched Cheesman Mountain a little while ago and thought it would be a good time to check it out. How hard could it be, it is under 8K feet ASL and only a 1 pointer.

Famous Last Words!

I would not say it was difficult but there is a fair amount of bushwhacking involved as we have to leave the well established trail and bushwhack through a maze of small hills to reach the ridgeline heading to the summit. Just because it is a 1 pointer does not mean it will be a walk in the park.

Map of the trail at the TH

Fuel Break information
Cheesman Reservoir was visible for the first part of the hike
Lynn did great
Pikes Peak
A lot of dead fall
Great views
You can just make out my hat as viewed from the summit
This is the rock that many people climb up
Lynn goofing off
I was a great hike and a lot of fun. The weather was fine despite the high winds once we were on the summit. We scrabbled down behind the summit rock to get out of the wind and enjoy the activations.

The antenna was a Buddipole Vertical (the 11 inch shock cord version), mini coil, versa tee supported by the shock cord mast. I made a counterpoise and used colored beads to make the frequency I had pre-tuned it for and used the same color for the tap. For example, 20 meters was the blue tap pin the mini coil and the blue bead on the counterpoise. You want to make it fool proof the higher in altitude you go. This setup along with the KX3 is almost 7 pounds which is a nit more than my ultra light MTR and EFHW setup at 14 ozs.


I was able to spot Lynn to my surprise!
RBN Found me after the first CQ
APRS track
Here is the video from the activation:


Thanks Chasers

KC0YQF Log for 20 Meter SSB:

W7RV
W5ODS
N6KZ
ND0C
NS7P
WA2USA

K0JQZ Log 20 Meter CW:

ND0C
KG3W
W7RV
N4EMG
NS7P
WA2USA
W9FHA
KJ6MBW
W5ODS
K7TQ
N0BN  Summit to Summit (W0C/FR-073)


73 from Frank and Lynn

Friday, June 13, 2014

Aspen Ridge and Bald Mountain SOTA Activation

I was supposed to be in WI with Lynn on vacation but with an older feline we did not want to stress her anymore that absolutely necessary by taking her to the kitty boarder so I stayed home. I did have the leave time already approved so I took the Wednesday through Friday off to do whatever. Whatever included a few SOTA summits, namely Aspen Ridge and Bald Mountain.

ASPEN RIDGE:

I got up earlier than my normal time and was a few hours ahead of myself. It is hard to judge the activation time when you have to drive 100 miles then drive 15 miles of jeep trails. No matter, I could always SMS Spot. I just wanted to get going.

I got to the same place we parked the Goat Wagon when Steve, wG0AT, Dave, NK0E, and I activated this summit last year. The road (185 I think) looks like it got a little worse and a high clearance vehicle is required but I think you can get with 1.5 miles of the TH in a normal car.

I was excited to get up there and get a pileup going but in my excitement I left my cellphone in the Jeep so no self spotting on this summit. I debated heading back down but thought the RBN would pick me up an hour before my scheduled activation time which means I had an hour to go. I was that early!

A lot of deadfall
Clear to see why it got its name
Finally breaking through the Aspens
Great views

When you reach the ridge you follow the fence line to the summit
Easy to follow
More fence
Rolling Hills
Looking at where I would operate from
I threw out a couple of CQs and the ever vigilant Elliott, K6EL, on his home summit in California picked me up. I made 4 other QSOs making it an official activation with out the Internet or a spotting function. I saw later that I was spotted by NS7P but band conditions were not that great anyway so I doubt many heard me. I heard WA2USA in there but he was not hearing me.

I used my trusty KX1 and EF. My 20 meter CW QSOs were with:

K6EL Summit to Summit
KC6SSE
NS7P
KB7HH
W7CNL

Here is a video of that activation. I had turned the audio recorder on but forgot to push record... Therefor no audio for this activation.



If you like, dislike or want to see something else in my videos please let me know. You can comment on youtube or here on my blog. I will entertain all ideas. I am not promising anything but I would like to hear what people would like to see more of (SOTA / Ham Radio / QRP related). 

BALD MOUNTAIN:

Just to get to the TH of Bald Mountain you need a high clearance vehicle. However, Bald Mountain does have a gnarly Jeep trail going all the way to the top. I remember last year hanging on in the Goat Wagon as wG0AT expertly made his way up the mountain. I debated on driving up but ultimatley decided that I got the Jeep just for this stuff so up I went. Once you start up you are pretty much committed. I think I could have turned around in a few spots but I was so close to the top that I just kept going. I parked a little closer than last time and walked away from the jeep leaving half my pack (but I had my cellphone). I had the important stuff so I setup, made the QSOs and tore down. I wanted to get off that very exposed summit before the next round of storms came through. I think next time I will just hike up Bald Mountain. It is not worth the chance of breaking down or getting a flat on the sharp rocks.

Thanks to all the chasers on 20 meters CW:

N1EU
W0MNA
W0ERI
WA2USA
NS7P
K0LAF
N6KZ
W7RV
AE9F
KB7HH
W9FHA
KK1W
K6EL  Summit to Summit
KG3W

72
Frank
K0JQZ

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Observatory Rock / Badger Mountain

This was a special activation in that my friend Nick got to join me. Nick and I are both Jeep enthusiast and getting to this TH requires some rough roads along with some mud to play in.

I had a hard time getting up this one. I do not know why but it was really kicking me like I had no energy. Anyway, we did finally summit, setup and had a good run on 20 meters SSB and CW. This was Nick's first exposure to ham radio and Summits On The Air so I hope I made a good impression. Nick is one of those super smart guys and he asked a lot of very good questions. Maybe we will have another Ham and SOTA guy in Colorado soon.

Speaking of introducing Ham Radio and SOTA to people. I had an idea, like may ideas this one is not entirely mine. I had some business cards made up that kind of gives a 2 second overview of the hobby and sport along with some links. Of course space is limited but I included my email and blog site if anyone wanted to pursue it more.

Here it is:
FRONT

BACK

While you can tell people on a mountain about ham radio and SOTA they will most likely forget as soon as they leave. SOTA brings us into contact with a great many different people with one thing in common. We are all on a mountain. I was also thinking that an inactive ham or maybe one that is unaware of SOTA would gain a little. This way, when they go home and empty their pockets they are most likely to type in a few URLs vice trying to remember what the weird guy was doing on the mountain top.

If it helps recruit one person into Ham Radio and or SOTA it is worth it.

After Observatory Rock, Nick and I said our goodbye and I headed West to Badger Mountain. I picked this one because I was beat from Observatory and this is a drive up. I was worried about the weather but was able to squeeze the activation in-between two storms. The second storm came up on me fast and I did not hear any other callers so I split. I usually try to operate more than just 20 and I seem to have gotten in a rut lately but the weather is the main cause.

I used my Buddipole Vertical on these activations.


Pictured is everything. The Shockcord 8 foot mast,  mini shock cord whip (9 Section), 25 feet of coax, mini coil which is pre-tapped for 10, 12, 15, 17, 20 meters, versa tee and the counterpoise with beads tied in for 10, 12, 15, 17 and 20 meters. The beads are color coded to the taps so less chance to screw up. I did forget to install some type of flat connector on the end of the counterpoise wire so I had to strip it and attach it that way. It was a little cumbersome trying to get it to stay attached.

It worked well and no tuner was required. There is not a lot of space on the summit of Observatory Rock but there is plenty on Badger. I put up an EF and vertical on Badger and listened between the two with a coax switch and the vertical heard more noise but signals were a little better. Not so much that it really matters. After all we are not putting contest grade stations on summits........ or are we....

I was going to get one more summit in today but decided to rest and get caught on a few things instead. The mountains are not going anywhere.

On the video I actually forgot to change the position of the camera as I wanted to get at least three different views. I just plain forgot I was recording until packing up. I also do not like the way the picture in picture cuts off a portion of a big file and the fact that I have not found a way to make the still picture stay,,,,, still. It wants to do that zoom in stuff with it that I really do not like for the PiP views. I will keep learning.

Video

Thanks for all the chasers.


72
Frank
K0JQZ