2012 Field Day: K0NR Results

For 2012 ARRL Field Day, we operated from the cabin in portable style. Temporary wire antennas were tossed into the trees and  the trusty Honda EU1000 generator provided emergency power. The Spousal Unit, Joyce KØJJW got on the air and made some contacts, making this a multi-op effort.

We used a similar approach as last year, see my post, ARRL Field Day: Season to Taste. The main difference is that the sporadic-e on 50 MHz wasn’t as good this year, but we had a fun time working the event.

  Band  Mode  QSOs    
     7  SSB     15    
    14  USB     78  
    21  USB     73  
    50  USB     33  
   144  USB      3  
   420  FM       1  
 Total  Both   203  
        Score: 406

As usual for Field Day, most of the time the 20 Meter phone band was crammed with stations calling CQ Field Day. There were many times that I responded to one call and had another radio operator think I was working them. It occurs to me that we have this emphasis on exposing new people to ham radio during Field Day via the GOTA stations and public demonstrations. However, this is kind of like showing someone the joy of driving a car by having them experience a giant traffic jam.  Is this really the best way to introduce people to ham radio?

Field Day: Make it your own!

73, Bob K0NR

How Not to Do a SOTA Activation

This weekend my wife and I were out exploring the San Juan Mountains near Ouray, Colorado. We found ourselves on a Jeep road to Engineer Pass. When we got to the pass, we stopped to have lunch and I examined the high peaks nearby. I saw some people on the summit of one of the peaks, which I determined was Engineer Mountain by looking at a topo map.

Hmmm, I said to myself, Engineer Mountain is a valid peak (W0/SJ-011, 12968 feet elevation) for a Summits On the Air (SOTA) activation. The only portable radio I had with me was a Yaesu VX-8GR with the stock rubber duck antenna. Not a great SOTA station. But if I could whistle up 4 contacts on 2M FM simplex, I would have a legitimate activation. We had already decided to climb to the summit, so any radio activity was just icing on the cake.

So off we went up the mountain. I got to the top and started calling on 146.52 MHz FM. Now it hits me that we are in the middle of a national forest, away from population centers and, to top it off, no one is expecting a SOTA activation here today. This might be a bit of a challenge to make 4 contacts. Then Thomas, KRØNK, answered my CQ. OK, there’s one contact. A little bit later Dave, AKØMR, comes on frequency and gives me a second contact. Both of these guys were in Grand Junction, CO, which is about 100 miles from Engineer Mountain. Not bad for a peanut-whistle HT using a standard rubber duck antenna.

I needed two more contacts. I tuned around for a repeater in the area and came across the 147.27 MHz machine which turned out to be a stones throw away from my location. It requires a CTCSS tone, so I fumbled around until I figured that out. No, I did not have a repeater directory with me…that was safely stored in the Jeep at the bottom of the mountain. I gave a quick call with my location and Ben WB5ITS came back to me. We QSY’d over to 146.52 to make my third contact.  Anticipating a rough go of it, I asked my wife Joyce K0JJW to descend off the peak while I remained at the top, so she could be my fourth contact. (SOTA rules do not allow contacts between parties on the same peak.)

Somewhere along the way, I reach for a piece of paper to log the contacts, only to find that I did not have a writing utensil with me. Duh. I would have to remember the times and callsigns of the contacts and write them down later.

I completed the fourth contact and headed down. Later that evening I checked the ListsofJohn database and found that there are actually two peaks in the area called Engineer Mountain. Go figure. The SOTA database only recognizes one of them…of course, you guessed it, not the one I was on. It turns out that the Engineer Mountain I was on is subordinated by an adjacent peak: Darley Mountain (W0/RG-034, 13260 feet). However, since I operated from 13,218 feet on my Engineer Mountain, it is within the 75 foot vertical activation zone for Darley Mountain. So, this does count for a SOTA activation of Darley Mountain.

This is where I could claim that incredible skill, flexibility and a little luck ruled the day. I think a more appropriate analysis is to concede that a complete lack of planning and preparedness produced a marginal result.

What can we learn from this?

  • Do your homework concerning the SOTA peak that you intend to activate before you start the climb. Make sure you know where it is and that you are really on it.
  • Always keep a notepad and pen/ pencil in your backpack
  • Even for casual hikes, take along a decent antenna for the HT. A half-wave vertical is way better than a stock rubber duck.
  • Plan in advance so you can post your intended SOTA activation on sotawatch.org
  • Have a repeater directory (or equivalent) available to identify repeaters in the area.
  • And don’t forgot the normal hiking Ten Essentials

Beyond doing a SOTA activation, some of these items could be important if an emergency should occur. It runs out there was no mobile phone coverage in the area. I used to be pretty vigilant about taking an HT with spare batteries and extended antenna along on hikes but have gotten sloppy lately. See Rescue on Uncompahgre Peak, which describes an incident years ago when my radio turned out to be very useful during an emergency.

In the end, I did complete my first SOTA activation, so I can be happy about that. And it gave me the opportunity to relearn a few things about planning and being prepared.

73, Bob KØNR

P.S. The WØ SOTA guys recently created a great W0 SOTA page.

2 Oct 2013 Update:

Upon further review of the SOTA rules, this was not a valid activation of Darley Mountain. SOTA General Rule 3.7.1 includes this:

The Operating Position must be within the permitted Vertical Distance of the Summit, as defined in Rule 3.5. The terrain between the operating position and the actual Summit must not fall below the permitted Vertical Distance.

There is a significant saddle between Engineer Mountain and Darley Mountain that falls below the 75 foot vertical distance used in Colorado. I have deleted the activation from the SOTA database.

Which provides us with another lesson learned: Read and understand the SOTA rules.

Results and a Few Thoughts On the June VHF Contest

As hoped, I had a great weekend working the ARRL June VHF QSO Party (AKA the June VHF Contest). Band conditions were not as good as last year but we had some very good sporadic-e propagation on 50 MHz.

I operated from the cabin “portable style” in DM78av, near Trout Creek Pass. It was a two band effort (50 MHz, 144 MHz) but I did make a few Qs on 440 FM. Everything worked pretty well except my portable mast struggled with the high winds we experienced.

I kept my Yaesu FT-847 on 2 Meters the entire time, using its 50 Watt output to drive a 180W Mirage amplifier to a 2M9SSB yagi antenna. My FT-950 was put to work on 6 Meters, with its 100 Watt output driving a 6M5HP Yagi.

The contest started out slow with just a few local contacts on 2 Meters. About 3 hours into the contest, 6 Meters started to percolate and I heard east coast and midwest stations popping up. Soon, the sporadic-e was in high gear and I was working stations at a decent clip. Later in the day, the band swung around and I worked quite a few stations in pretty much every part of the USA. Sunday started out in the morning with a few contacts to the south, including XE2X in grid EL06. Later the band flipped over to the east coast, then hovered over the midwest. Later in the day, the VE stations from Canada were pounding in and it seemed they were having a blast working many different states.

    Band       QSOs X pt =  QSO pts.  X   Grids   =     Points
    50         398    1      398           126           50148
    144        38     1      38            13            494
    432        3      2      6             3             18
    TOTALS     439           442           142           62764

Note the CW keyer and paddles in the picture. I am not a great CW op but I end up making a few CW contacts “when the going gets tough” during VHF contests. Not shown in the photo is the Heil Pro Set headset with HC-4 microphone element and optional PTT foot switch. I have really come to appreciate how effective and efficient this headset is for contesting. I’ll also give a shout-out for the VHFLOG contest software by W3KM. I’ve tried a number of logging programs and really like this one for VHF contests.

73, Bob K0NR

Gear Up for the June VHF Contest!

This weekend is the ARRL June QSO Party (also known as The June VHF Contest). It is a great opportunity to get on the air and try out the VHF bands. In particular, 6 Meters usually has some fun sporadic-e propagation during the contest. It is a blast when that band comes alive with signals from across North America.

For complete info see: http://www.arrl.org/june-vhf-qso-party

I am going to operate from our cabin near Trout Creek Pass (DM78), focusing on 6 Meters and 2 Meters.

Check out this article that I wrote on how to work a VHF contest:

Most of the activity will be on SSB, calling frequencies are:  50.125 MHz, 144.200 MHz, 432.100 MHz, all USB
On FM, try these frequencies:  146.55 MHz, 223.5 MHz, 446.0 MHz

Get up off the couch and have some radio fun this weekend!

73, Bob K0NR

This Spewed Out of the Internet #22

The internet keeps spewing forth a river of bits, some of it actually useful information.

Reliable sources tell me that the date for the 2013 Hamcon Colorado has been set: June 28-30 in Estes Park, Colorado. This event is the best hamfest in Colorado and happens every 4 years. (It is the ARRL Rocky Mt Division Convention which rotates between Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico.) The date is a little later in the year than previous Hamcon Colorado’s which I think will be even better for attracting out of state visitors. The 2012 division convention will be held July 27-29 in Bryce, Utah.

The ARRL June VHF QSO Party is coming up on June 9-11. This is my favorite ham radio event of the year, since it stimulates VHF activity and (usually) has some good propagation on 50 MHz. Get on the air and have some fun!

For the EEs in the crowd, my friend Ken Wyatt (WA6TTY)  is now writing an EMC Blog for Test and Measurement World. Ken is a industry expert on Electromagnetic Compatibility and a pretty darn good author as well.

This article in The Atlantic says that people are using their WiFi SSID to share their political position (“I Heart Obama”). This is sad, really sad.

Neil Armstrong is one my personal heroes, not just because he was the first man on the moon (I mean, if you believe that really happened). He has had every opportunity to promote himself as a celebrity but instead he keeps a low profile. I like that. I came across the video of an excellent (and rare) interview with him on an Australian web site.

There is a new ham radio podcast on the air: Ham Radio Podcast. Check it out and give it a try. And, in case you haven’t found this one, check out the Practical Amateur Radio Podcast by my friend Jerry Taylor (KD0BIK).

The ARRL has launched the digital version of QST magazine. It seems to work but it’s not a very satisfying experience on my little netbook. Probably better with a large monitor. See comments from AA6E and KE9V.

– 73, Bob K0NR