Sunday, December 27, 2015

Mount of the Holy Cross Plan for the summer of 2016

Just before Thanksgiving I had to go home to NC to settle my mom and brothers estate. It was a quick trip with no SOTA possible. I went without Lynn as I just needed to have a few days with my sister and get the paperwork done. My sister and I also discussed my brother's ashes and while we all grew up near the beach my brother was not a big fan so we decided that I would bring his ashes back to Colorado and will bring him up to a 14er.

We selected Mount of the Holy Cross as Jim's summit. I have been researching the approach and trail. This looks to be about as difficult as the Mount Rosa ascent that Steve and I did last year (15 miles with over 5,000 feet of elevation gain) so I think we will break it up into two days.

Mount of the Holy Cross is the northernmost 14,000-foot mountain in the Sawatch Range. It was named for the distinctive cross-shaped snowfield on the northeast face. The mountain was proclaimed "Holy Cross National Monument" by Herbert Hoover on May 11, 1929.

This mountain has been the subject of painters, photographers and even a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, (The Cross of Snow). The first publicly available photograph was published in National Geographic magazine. Thomas Moran depicted the mountain in an oil painting, which now is part of the collection of the Museum of the American West, part of the Autry National Center in Los Angeles, California.

The Cross is visible from the top of Vail Mountain, but was first spotted in 1869 from the top of Grays Peak (another fourteener). The Cross is 1400’ high and 750’ wide – it melts each year to fill the Bowl of Tears Lake directly under the east face of the peak.
Now I just need to figure out the best time to do it. I think it will be when Lynn has her summer break from school so most likely in August.
North Ridge approach and common descent mistake

Great looking mountain
 The only part about this hike that concerns me is the 1000 feet ascent you have to do from that camp ground to get back over the pass and back down to the TH. I have a feeling that is going to be the real challenge.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas / NORAD Tracks Santa

Merry Christmas to all the read this blog. Lynn and I just finished our shift at NORAD, tracking Santa and answering phones. It was a grand time.

Looks like extra Communications Support was needed

Lynn, KC0YQF

Entering the Santa Track Ops Center


turn over briefing

Lynn in the thick of it

It was sometimes difficult to hear but Lynn's experience of pulling out weak SOTA chasers pays off!

The tracking screen in our area

Our short is completed
It sure was a lot of fun talking to kids that got excited about being visited by Santa. They had a lot of good and tough questions and we answered them the best we could and provided updates on locations and visit times. I am sure that Santa's trip will be safe and speedy. We have the watch!

Merry Christmas everyone.


Sunday, December 13, 2015


While Lynn and I were up in Denver I stopped in at HRO and quickly saw the SDRPlay hanging on the wall. The SDRPlay is a Radio Spectrum Processor that covers all frequencies between 100 KHz and 2 GHz. I have one of the 20 dollar dongles that can be bought most anywhere and while they are fun to play with most are not near the performance of the SDRPlay.

A deciding factor for me to purchase this was it is compatible with Windows, Linux, Android and Mac. I currently have it running on my Mac Pro.

This is what you get

The radio is around 150 dollars and from what I understand it is only being sold in HRO outlets.  The above picture is everything you get. You will need a printer to USB cable and an antenna that you can connect via the SMA connection. I am using my scanner antenna.

Power and computer interface

Antenna SMA connection
Unlike other dongles this also has a very good web site and videos. Check out SDRPlay web site for more info.

Here is a screen shot.

Below is a video from Robert Nagy, AB5N, that it explains it better than I can. Also he gives a good run down of installing and using the software. It is worth watching if you are just curious or are considering a SDRPlay purchase in the future.

Enjoy and 73,

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving and a little QRP

I hope everyone had or is having a Happy Thanksgiving. I have a lot to be thankful for. Too much to list.

We got a dusting of snow over night. I awoke at 0400 to see the snow falling. The yard and driveway were very slick. Mister Mann (our rescue cat) wanted to go outside like he often does. He did not last long and decided it was better to chase DX with me inside. He did not seem to like Turkey that much but Mayv our calico (over 20 years old), loves it!

Mayv enjoying Thanksgiving

While the XYL, Lynn KC0YQF, was cooking our bird (one of the few times we eat meat) I decided to tune around the bands. I am still working towards DXCC QRP (QRP = Low Power or less than 5 Watts) and my results for the day was as follows:

TK/S57C  Corsica

CT9/LZ2JE   Madeira Island

9Y4/WJ2O  Trinidad and Tobago

PJ2/N5OT  Curacao

6W1RW  Senegal

PZ5W  Suriname

V26K  Antigua and Barbuda

PJ2/N5OT and V26K are not new ones for me but the others are. V47NT in India was the loudest of all but he went QRT after I called a few times. Only one DX station (PZ5W) was working split which made that one easy to bag but the other ones were simplex so I had to go slightly off freq to make my 5 watts heard. 

All and all I was very pleased with the results.

Lynn and the feast
72, Frank

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Mount Herman with a bunch of Goats

Steve, wG0AT, and I have not been on a summit together in a long while. We decided to load up the boys and head up Mount Herman.

The propagation, weather and company was perfect.

On the summit saddle

view of Monument

View West

America's Mountain


Zen Goat, Peanut

Steve running the CW pileup

Boo Goat keeps an eye on things

Peanut likes to find a good spot and Zen out

Pano shot from our operating position

Steve operated CW and I took a rare turn on the microphone. It was fun but a little hard for me to pick out callsigns. If any ones call is wrong just send me an email.

Here is my log from 20 meter SSB:



























Lynn had to work so she missed a perfect day with temps in the 40s to 50s, no wind, clear skies and of course, the goats!!!


A short clip of Steve in his shack on Mount Herman sending CQ SOTA.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Midland Hill near Buena Vista Colorado or W0C/SP-117

Midland Hill will always be a special place for me. Not only was I the first to activate it but mostly because it was my first SOTA activation on 6 July 2012.

Lynn and I got a late start for several reasons but had near perfect weather for the hike up and down.



Hike Profile

GPS Track

GPS Track on Google Earth

Not much to say Ham Radio wise save that 20 meters seemed to be working very well.  Lynn worked 17 Meters due to the SSB contest going on and she worked the following stations:









WA2FON  Summit to Summit

I started out trying to work another Activator on PSK 31 but was unable to pull him out however, I did have a nice run on 20 meter CW:



























I had to forgo the dipole and went with the EF due to space on the summit. The linked dipole is a much better performer but with the bands like they were even an a compromise antenna would have yielded good results.

It was a long drive and we did not get home till almost dark. We were exhausted when we got home.

72 Frank

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Elecraft SP3 Speakers

Today my new speakers arrived. All I have to say is Wow! What a difference a quality speaker makes. After I hooked them up I worked V73D first call (5 Watts to a Vertical). Of course there are several factors that enabled that and the main one was propagation. They were loud! After I found their split freq (using the P3 and second receiver) it was a simple matter of giving them a call. Fun!!!

Closer View

Sunday, October 18, 2015

10090 or W0C/SP-101

This was a last minute plan. Lynn wanted to get out for a hike and she had never been on this summit and I kind of forgot about it. It is in the area we are looking at land and cabins so I figured we would enjoy our Sunday and do this one. It is a short but steep one and it takes a lot more effort than it looks like it would.

It looks like an easy walk up

Looks are deceiving and the last bit is very vertical

The reward is the views
I decided to use the linked dipole again and it performed very well as I have come to expect it would.

Lynn ran through the 20 meter SSB pileup very quickly and after calling for any last callers several times I moved to CW. Here are the stations Lynn worked:


Here are the stations I worked on 20 and 30 meter CW:

NK6A  Summit to Summit

Lynn working through the pileup
K0JQZ on 20 Meter CW

center of linked dipole supported by a fishing pole

one leg of the linked dipole
After CW I went to PSK31 and did not get any takers but it was nice to see that everything worked  without issue.  I am using the beta firmware for the PX3 to allow keyboard entry. It works well! Not pictured (and not on the summit) is a cheap windows based tablet that I can use to update the memories if so desired. I requires nothing more than a cable between the radio and the tablet.

NOTE: I noticed my spot for PSK31 did not go through on the SOTAWatch website. I am not sure why but am positive that is why I did not get anyone calling me.

PX3 with cardboard sunlight shield, KX3 and rollup keyboard

Of note, Steve, wG0AT and I operated in the same spot on the first activation of this summit and his picture of me operating here became what is now my current SOTA QSL card.

Panoramic Shot
I was a perfect day on the summit. The wind and clouds did pick up but we had already enjoyed an hour with no wind and mild temps.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

South Peak W0C/SR-111

I was unable to walk, much less hike on Friday and Saturday. Apparently I did something to my foot and it felt like I had a mild sprang so Friday and Saturday I was off my feet. I felt better on Saturday evening and I thought we could do a SOTA summit on Sunday before Lynn had to go back to work on Monday (I have the Federal Holiday off). Lynn was really wanting to get out!

We headed to South Peak or W0/SR-111 which is less than 13,000 feet (I think it is around 12,800 or so). I really wanted to get one more 14er in before winter but do not think that is going to happen and think the wind was a little much for a 14er on this day.

As Lynn and I headed up in altitude the wind was getting worse. I am not sure what the gust measurement was but it sure was a lot more difficult with that wind against us. I was worried that we would not be able to setup on the summit due to the winds. I was right! However, we got lucky and found a cliff on the side that took us completely out of the wind. In fact, behind the cliff it was very pleasant.
Views from the hike

More views

I decided that in order to maximize our 5 watts, with current band conditions, I would setup my newly built linked dipole antenna. I have made a few of these in the past but I took my time with this one and got in matched very well from 40 meters up. There was not enough room to deploy it fully as a 40 meter dipole but utilizing the cliff area I was able to get it setup for use on every band save 40.

Once I hooked up the mic I did a quick check I found out the mic was not working. Something happened when I plugged it in and it just stopped working. I was not sure if it was a radio setting to the microphone itself.

I really did not want Lynn to leave the summit without her QSOs and seemed to remember that there was an internal mic or something on the KX3? For the life of me I could not figure that out. At almost 13,000 feet I just was not functioning very well.

After fiddling with the radio I noticed that the VOX and the transmit function worked so I decided I would just hit the transmit button on the KX3 and Lynn could talk into the mic. This worked well enough for Lynn to run her pileup and she started pushing the transmit button on her own as she got more comfortable with the setup.

Trying to fix the mic
Lynn smiling after running the SSB pileup

The highlight of this activation was Lynn talking to Kylee at the helm of ND0C. It is always a pleasure to hear Kylee's voice break through the pileup.

Lynn chasers on 20 meter SSB:





KJ6NHF  Summit to Summit









I then got on 20 meter CW and had a few problems with my paddle, operator error, but soon got that sorted and I worked the following stations:








I intended to go to 30 meters and other bands but the wind had shifted direction and the fishing pole holding the dipole fell to the ground just as I was standing up to change bands. I took that as a sign and we packed up and headed out. Getting back into that wind was brutal but we descended quickly and completed another activation with a few challenges.

Listening to the signal reports Lynn was getting it seemed the new dipole antenna was working well. I have started carrying the EF as a backup as it always works but, with the band conditions lately I wanted to have a little extra. I have one more antenna I want to try which is a modified OCF Dipole.
The Linked Dipole
The SOTA part is always fun but building and using your own equipment just adds to the enjoyment.

My foot felt ok but I started to feel a little bit of pain as we hiked up and down. I am feeling it a little more as I write this but can walk without a cane so it is healing up nicely.

Thanks Chasers!