Activity was light during the ARRL January VHF Sweepstakes, but I had fun anyway, working more grids on 2 Meters than I expected. The January VHF contest is not a big deal for me but I try to at least get on the air. In previous years, I have operated backpack portable for the contest.
This year, I was up at our cabin near Trout Creek Pass in the western part of DM78. The cabin sits at about 9500 feet in elevation with a good radio horizon in most directions. It is blocked a bit to the west due to some 14,000 foot mountains. I don’t have serious antennas up there (yet), so I decided I would just temporarily install a 2 Meter yagi and focus on working that band. (I am thinking I need to get serious about 2M VUCC.) The snow can be quite deep so I wasn’t sure that I could get the SUV up the driveway. Since we might have had to carry everything up on snowshoes, I was thinking minimal equipment. (It turns out the neighbor with a frontloader cleared the driveway, so this was not a problem.)
The rig is a Yaesu FT-847 (one of my all-time favorite rigs) that puts out 50 Watts on 144 MHz. I probably should have brought my Mirage amplifier along but, again, I was going for minimal equipment. With only one band to worry about my operating focus was, well, only on one band. This basically meant hanging out on the calling frequency (144.200 MHz) listening for activity and making calls. During other contests, I’d be jumping around from band to band, trying to make sure I didn’t miss anyone. The one band approach certainly is simpler…perhaps a bit boring.
I was careful to set up my station for both SSB and CW modes. In previous contests, I’d forget about CW until I really needed it….then scramble around for my keyer, frantically trying to plug the right cable into the right jack and get it all working. For CW, I had my XT-4 CW Memory Keyer, which is a simple, but effective 4-memory keyer. I loaded up the first memory with a “CQ CQ CQ de K0NR” message. The second memory was loaded with “R R R DM78 DM78″….which sends my vhf grid to the other station. The third memory is used for calling a specific station. I manually send the other stations call sign, then punch the third memory “de K0NR K0NR DM78 DM78″. The fourth memory is to acknowledge that the contact is complete: “QSL QSL 73 de K0NR K0NR”.
I put the 2M9 Yagi from M2 on a TV mast strapped to the front deck of the cabin. There was very little wind so I didn’t bother to guy the mast, but I did take it down at night in case the wind came up.
Most of the stations I worked were in my grid and DM79 (greater Denver). I made only 20 Qs but picked up 9 grids (DM68, DM69, DM78, DM79, DN70, DN80, DM89, DM98 and EM09). This is a rather high grid/Q ratio and I felt like I did pretty well in terms of picking up the available grids.
I worked N0KE over in the western part of the state in DM69. On this path, some of the adjacent mountains get in the way. I heard Phil calling on CW on 144.200 MHz and worked him on that mode. I doubt that we would have completed the contact on SSB. CW really does get through when you are operating near the noise floor. I also managed to snag N0LL over in EM09 Kansas using CW. I have worked Larry in the past on 2M from other locations but not from this far west. I figure that he is about 390 miles away from the cabin….not bad for 50 Watts on 2 Meters. Of course, Larry has an awesome station on VHF and puts out a big signal. My wife Joyce K0JJW did an impromptu rover run over to DM68 (about 6 miles away) to activate that grid. Another nice surprise was finding KI0SK out roving in DN80 and DM89. Those are relatively rare/unpopulated grids so the only way they get activated is via a rover station.
So my summary is a poor showing on number of QSOs but pretty decent on number of vhf grids. And a weekend in the mountains messing around with ham radio is always a good time.
73, Bob K0NR