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Thursday, March 12, 2015

FT4TA Expedition Book

I received the commemorative book on the FT4TA expedition to Tromelin in the mail a couple of days ago. Just a word to say that it is a nice memento of the expedition. I enjoy collecting expedition books as they are nice reading to learn how things worked, but also to look at a few years in the future to remember how things worked, "in the good old days":-)

You can see a preview of the book here:  http://www.blurb.com/books/5999560-hamradio-dxpedition-to-tromelin-island-ft4ta-2014

I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

My New Station

As I have blogged in past, I have a QTH in Santa Fe, NM. I have 5 acres, but according to the deed restrictions all I can do is look at it. No towers, no antennas, nothing. Since I spend most of my time here activating SOTA summits it's not that big of deal, however from time to time there is something I might miss because I have no HF capability, plus I like to chase SOTA peaks as well and I haven't been able to do that from here.

So with the help of Hector, XE2K, I am now able to work HF from here in a couple of ways. The first challenge was the antenna. While there is strict prohibitions against transmitting antennas, there is nothing prohibiting flagpoles. So I got permission to put up a flagpole. The flagpole I bought was from ZeroFive antennas. I bought the 20 ft. version. which is resonant on 20m with no tuning. I am using 16 43ft. radials However, I also put a SGC remote tuner at the base, which tunes all bands from 10m - 30m. Hector, who is very good at expanding the capabilities of any antenna, suggested we add a radiating wire to the mix. So we cut a 43 ft. piece of wire, attached it to the flag fastener and hoisted it to the top of the pole and tied off the end, in an inverted V configuration. the two antennas now are resonant, with the tuner, 10m - 80m. While it's not optimum, it is functional and now I'm on the air. In the photo below you can see the flagpole and the wire that makes 40m and 80m possible.


Flagpole Antenna

The next HF solution is to remote into my K3 at my home QTH in Texas. So I bought the K3/0 which is the remote radio device along with the RemoteRig interfaces. It is also now functional. So if I need a beam, I have access to that as well. So I am back in business on HF. Below is a look at the station. The K3/0 is on the left and an Icom 7200 on the right.

Station

Where there is a will, there is a way.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Final Assault (Part Three): Mission Accomplished

Today, March 8, 2015 at 1732z, I made my fourth QSO from Peak 9431, W5N/PW-019 with N4EX. That QSO qualified the activation and thus earned me my SOTA Mountain Goat award. After 2 years and 2 days my point total is now 1,007, hallelujah!!

Peak 9431 was also  the second activation I ever made and I activated it with Fred, KT5X and John K1JD, both of which were with me today. Also this was my first activation using snow shoes the entire way, which actually was sort of fun. I made 37 QSO's and had a nice run of Europeans on 15m. It was a great day. Below is a video and a couple of pictures of today's activation.


Ascent

Activation (I left my snow shoes on)

Departing the Summit with K1JD and KT5X


More summits to activate. Thanks to the chasers who make this possible.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Final Assualt (Part 2), Not Today

There was a tentative plan to do two peaks today to finish off my SOTA Goat quest. However it was not to be. We did activate Viejos Mesa, W5N/CC-020, but evidently I had yet to do a hike through snow and mud on a beautiful sunny day. I can now check that box. The summit took us a lot longer than expected and conditions would have been similar a the second peak. So we cancelled the second one.

I did the activation with Fred, KT5X and John K1JD. It was a lovely day and the views were simply magnificent, in fact these views captured the imagination of Georgia O'Keeffe, and which she immortalized in her paintings. Of all the days to forget my camera it was today, but in the picture below, everything in it plus a lot more was what we got to look at while activating this summit. Of course we were a lot higher, 8,000 ft. ASL, while enjoying the beauty.


So now I sit at 996 points. Maybe tomorrow.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Final Assault (Part 1)

The last I wrote I had 965 SOTA Activator points. The goal is 1,000 Activator points to achieve Mountain Goat status. I'm almost there. I did two summits today, Palomas Peak (W5N/SI-010) and Peak 6860 (W5/SI-022), to move my total to 985 points, almost there. Below are some video clips from my activations today.

It was a beautiful day to be in the mountains of New Mexico. Both of these summits are near Albuquerque, but very different environments. Palomas Peak is in an alpine forest and 6860, more or less in the desert. Al within about 25 miles of each other.


The Trail to Palomas Peak


Palomas Operating Position


Palomas Descent


Taking a Break During 6860 Ascent


Arrival on 6860


6860 Summit


It was a beautiful day with two very different mountains. Lots of fun. Only 15 points to go. Stay Tuned for Part II.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Chew the Rag a Little

Most of us these days are very busy. Especially for those who are working, raising kids and trying to do the best we can to meet our obligations, there doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day. Today's world is fast moving, with smart phones, iPads and other forms of technology it's hard to have any spare time. And so for many that translates to our beloved hobby, Amateur Radio, we just rush through our routine, work the station, 599, and get back to the hustle and bustle of life.

We use the spotting networks to save time turning the dial looking for DX, or that needed whatever, we may be chasing. Even the rare times that we may call CQ, it's a quick report and on to the next one. Because of our rush to get through our days, we miss a lot of the hidden treasures available to us in Amateur Radio if just take the time.

I'm as guilty as the next guy of all of the above, that's why I can write about it so easily. However in the last few months I've been taking the time to have real chats or "ragchews" with my fellow amateurs. CW is my preferred mode, and so I have set aside 20 -30 minutes in an evening, rather than watch some TV show I will forget about in a weeks' time, to just sit down and have a chat. I've met some really cool people and had many very satisfying QSO's. I have re-sharpened my CW skills and met some new friends.

So, call CQ instead of watching the spots and see what you get. Talk about your rig, the weather,  your paddle or bug and enjoy a relaxing time in your shack. You will feel refreshed to meet others who share this great hobby.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Closing in on Mountain Goat

It has been a busy year on several fronts. My day job has kept me extremely busy, my band competed in the International Blues Challenge (IBC), getting to play two nights in BB Kings on Beale St. in Memphis, TN to packed houses and I've been accumulating a lot of SOTA points.

Sometimes my busy schedule gives me opportunities to activate summits that I wouldn't otherwise get to activate. A case in point was travelling to the IBC in Memphis. My drive from San Antonio took me through eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas. Both areas are target rich environments for SOTA activators so I was able to accumulate a lot of points. So many points in fact that, when added to a recent trip to Santa Fe, NM and the Davis Mountains in Texas I am knocking on the door of the SOTA Mountain Goat award which requires 1,000 activator points. I am now at 965 points.

Not just because I am getting close to earning MG status, but I believe this is one of the toughest awards in ham radio if you factor in the physical side of it. Nearly all awards in the amateur radio world require you sit on your derriere for hours or even days at a time. You will never mistake a ham convention for a gathering of tri-athletes. Staying fit enough to do these climbs has me in the best shape I've been in  years. That said, you don't have to be in fantastic shape to participate in SOTA. There are mountains or hills  that qualify that can be driven up or just a short walk will get you there. But it does require that you get outside, which is a good thing. And I promise, the more you do it, the more you will want to do.

I've learned some much about portable QRP operating while working toward this award. It's been said that when you achieve MG status, you have a Ph.D in portable radio operation. When I think about my first activation versus the way I operate now, it's night and day. I travel so much lighter and my station is much more efficient. I can be operating within 10 minutes of arriving on the summit with a station that will generate a pile-up and make DX contacts on multiple bands.

So I am anxious to get the 1,000th point, which hopefully will be within the next couple of weeks. Below is a video and picture from a couple of summits I activated last weekend in the Davis Mountains of Texas. The Davis Mountains are the home of the McDonald Observatory which, as you will see below, is a dominant feature on the horizon in that area. BTW, Mount Locke, where the observatory sits, is a 10 pointer that you drive up, however you have to get of the house to get there. The picture is from Mt. Arabella, a fairly steep 8 pointer that will take the average person 30 -45 minutes to ascend. The video is from Peak 6411 outside of Ft. Davis. It also is a drive-up. I use the Alex Loop on drive up mountains, but End Fed Half Wave (EFHW) on hikes of any distance.

Since beginning my chase for MG my longest hike was doing Santa Fe Baldy, in Santa Fe, NM. A 15 mile roundtrip up to 12,000+ ft. ASL. The tallest mountain I've done is Mt. Sherman in Colorado at 14,036 ft. ASL.

I 'm sure I will make another posting to the Blog when I get the 1,000th point. I can't wait to become a certified Old Goat!

McDonald Observatory from Mt. Arabella


video