Tuesday, May 31, 2016

10650, Chief and Squaw Mountain


Lynn and I joined Steve, better know as the "Goat Guy" to the Ham Radio community, on a hike of an un-named summit called 10650 which is its altitude. The access to this summit is via Old Stage Road in Colorado Springs.

This is a bushwhack of a hike with a lot of deadfall it is steep in areas. The beginning is ok and the end is ok but all that stuff in the middle is a bear of a hike. It was well worth it as Steve and I both brought our KX2s and some different antennas to play with.

Lynn's first time with the KX2

Lynn running a pileup (photo by wG0AT)

photo by wG0AT

Trying a little PSK31

10650 is a treed summit

Looking South East

Using KX2 and 58 foot long wire and 13 foot counter poise

My APRS track

The GPS (Goat Positioning System) and Lynn


Steve running a pileup with KX2 number 00006

Conditions were not great but Lynn was able to work the following chasers on 20 meter SSB:


I worked the following stations on 18Mhz CW:


I worked W0QFW using PSK31, what a thrill! To top it off I worked Bob, K0NR on 2 meters while he was at his cabin near Trout Creek Pass!


Steve was not able to join us for Chief and Squaw which was disappointing but we had been looking forward to a night in the Fire Tower on Squaw Mountain for a long time. The plan was do Chief then drive over to park in the designated area then hike to the tower and spend the night.

The trail for Chief is covered in about 6 feet of snow but you can walk on it as it was frozen. We did fall through in a few spots but made our way out. Spikes are highly recommended this time of year.
Lynn at the sign for Chief Mountain TH

Lynn making her way on the slick stuff

A nice coupe that did the final ascent with us

Working the CW pileup on Chief, Squaw in the background

This little guy was looking to get a peak at the new KX2

On Chief, Squaw behind us
The weapon of choice was again the KX3. I am still amazed at the size and weight of this radio as their seems to be an inverse relationship to its capabilities. The smaller the radio the more the capabilities. I, like many, would probably prefer a simple 2 band MTR for a quick, CW only, 14er activation however, for just plain enjoyment the ease of use and carry the KX2 cannot be beat.

Lynn worked the following stations on 20 meter SSB:


I worked the following stations on 40, 30 and 20 meter CW:



Next up was Squaw, we hiked back down to the Jeep and headed to the parking spot for the Fire Tower renters. On the road up there we saw several cars parked on the side of the road and a Jeep JKU sideways on the road, stuck in the snow. I offered to help but they got it unstuck without our help. I motored on by that spot with no difficulty and had to stop at a make shift shooting range as several trucks were parked blocking the road. We ended up parking along side the road. Not an idea  spot but out of the way of traffic. We traded in our daypacks for overnight packs and headed up the dirt road to the Squaw Mountain Fire Tower. It is not a long hike and it is not real steep but with the extra weight of water and other items I was feeling it. We finally made it and setup shop in the fire tower. Along the way another nice couple and their dog talked to us a bit. They hiked up to the tower and took a look inside. I think they may be renting it in the future as they were impressed. The KX3, PX3 and keyboard were in my pack for Squaw since we were going to be staying a while. Here the KX3 really shines.

KX3 / PX3

Easy to run a pileup from this summit
Lynn activated in her PJs, may be a first for SOTA!!
Morning view

Fire Tower from the Jeep
Conditions on the bands were not that great plus we had a storm on three sides of us. Still, Lynn managed to pull out the following contacts on 20 and 40 meters:


I made the following QSOs on 20 and 40 meters using CW and PSK31


Having a rollup keyboard mated to the PX3 really helped with PSK QSOs. I think the KX3/PX3 combo really shines at portable locations that you are going to do a lot of operating from. Or, of course, as a home station. If I did not have a K3 I would have a KX3 and PX3 as my main station.

GPA profile of Chief and Squaw Hike

Chief and Squaw GPS track

A time lapse video from the railing on the outside of the Fire Tower looking at Chief Mountain, the mountain we were on the previous day. 


Friday, May 27, 2016

KX2 number 81 has arrived in Southern Colorado

I was like a kid at Christmas waiting for the KX2 to arrive. I have been using Steve's KX2 and was familiar with it but was still taken aback when I pulled it out of the box. It is tiny!

I could not wait to use it so today (Friday) I took a day of leave and headed with friend, wG0AT, up Mount Herman for some SOTA fun with both KX2s. Number 6 and 81.

The final ascent (snow covered)

wG0AT checking our movement with a new app

Cold and windy but still great to be out

Starting to see "blue sky" through the trees

K0JQZ on summit getting ready to radiate some RF. (Photo by wG0AT)

I could not stay on the summit long. We had originally planned a pre-dawn hike in order to get some good time lapse video but with the clouds, rain at lower elevations and snow about 8,000 feet we waited. I had to meet Lynn, KC0YQF, for lunch and had to leave Steve on the summit.

The video really tells the whole story so here it is:

If you are like me I was please to hear the introduction of the KX2 made by Eric, WA6HHQ, of Elecraft at the Four Days In May event. In case you missed it here is a link to it.

That was recorded by Ham Radio 360 podcast. They have several hours of interviews from the 2016 Hamvention and many different subjects.

This is a short entry. As always I appreciate those that take the time to read my blog. I know the content is mostly just rambling with no "break through" announcements or discoveries. It just documents my journey in Ham Radio.


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Raspberry Mountain, Again!

This is the second time this year I have hiked this one. The first time was on New Years day and the temp at the TH was minus 5 degrees. Today the TH was 65 degrees warmer.

The first time Lynn had a lot of problems with the cold (pre surgery) and had to bail about a mile into the hike. Today was no problem.

America's Mountain

This guy was looking for food

Looking East

K0JQZ using PSK31

He starts to get pretty aggressive on the food front

Lynn's KX3

The hike was just over 6.5 miles
GPS Track
APRS Beacon
Phil, NS7P and Tommy, W7RV were waiting on Lynn when we got to the summit. I did not have to spot her on the SOTA Web Site so maybe they were following our APRS Track. That is the biggest advantage a Chaser can employe if an Activator is using APRS.

Propagation was not great but Lynn worked the following Chasers on 20 meters:

K6YOA Summit to Summit

I worked PSK31 and was unable to make one QSO. I did make a Summit to Summit QSO with K6HPX on CW. Since I already activated this summit and the trail and summit were getting crowded we called it a day. 



Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Elecraft KX2 on a SOTA summit

I was fortunate enough to use a KX2 on a couple of SOTA activations with SOTA friend Steve, WG0AT.

I believe this is another home run by Elecraft. The radio is easy to use, the tuner tuned my End Fed from 80 to 10 meters, the radio is light weight, easy to use and compact. It is not much bigger than a KX1.

I used it a lot on PSK31, CW and SSB. I used the internal mic and the external Elecraft mic. The specs including price of the radio can be seen at the Elecraft Web site.

KX3, KX1 and the KX2

WG0AT running a pileup on SSB with the KX2

Light weight
Built in tuner
Easy to use
As with all Elecraft Radios great QSK
Small size
Internal Battery with long life


Does this replace the KX3? In a word, no. If I did not have a K3 the KX3 would be my main station. It is that good and fun to take portable. I can see the KX3 in our RV or beach house/cabin in the future.

I do not have a KX3 but the XYL lets me use hers on joint SOTA activations. She is also kind enough to let me pack it. Since Lynn and I plan to do more 14ers this summer this will be a welcome addition. It takes up less space than a water bottle and is pretty much self contained. Add antenna, plug in paddles/mic and your good to go. My next project is to research a small mic for it.

KX1 vs KX2 for size comparison (photo by wG0AT)

K0JQZ on SSB/KX2 (photo by wG0AT)

K0JQZ running a CW pileup on the KX2 (photo by wG0AT)

K0JQZ on the trail (photo by wG0AT)

Thought I would include this assessment between the LD-11 and KX2/KX3:

Not my words but I agree with the facts as stated.

- LD-11 has over twice the KX3's or KX2's current drain in RX mode
- it has no internal ATU- no internal battery
- no RTTY/PSK/CW decode/encode- no attached keyed paddle
- uses relay keying for CW (very noisy!); KX3/KX2: PIN-diode, silent
- very small LCD with a tiny "panadapter" function (very low-grade compared to the PX3)
- only 2 knobs (5 on the KX3, 4 on the KX2)
- only ~12 switch functions (40+ on the KX3, 24+ on the KX2)
- very small, non-weighted tuning knob (KX3 has a weighted knob w/optical encoder)
- much lower power output (5-8 W; KX3 goes to 15 W on most bands, KX2 goes to 10 W)
- no integrated 100-W amp option- poor RX and TX performance (if it's "based on the LD-5" as they claim; the LD-5 did very poorly in its QST review; check their keying problems described by the ARRL)
- no dual watch or stereo audio- no user-programmable functions
- can't be used HT-style (/PM with quick-disconnect ground wire in the case of the KX2)
- easy to accidentally turn power on in pack
- not compatible with popular PC remote control/logging apps
- no extended temperature compensation (they're stuck with +/- 2.5 ppm; we can provide +/- 0.2 ppm)
- minimum supply voltage of 10.5 V (KX3/KX2 can go down to 8 V)
- no real-time clock (optional on both KX3 and KX2)