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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Miscelleneous

It's been over a month since my last post. The day job, busy weekends and yes even a little radio have kept me occupied. I won't bore you with the non radio stuff, but I'll try to hit the highlights of the last few weeks.

SOTA

I've been on a couple of SOTA excursions. The first was mid-August to the Davis Mountains in West Texas. If you have never been there, it is an oasis in the middle of a desert. With mountain elevations in the 6 -7,000 ft. ASL, the climate is much closer to a summer alpine climate than a desert climate. Afternoon showers keep the entire area lush and green. I partnered with Mike,  KD5KC on this trip and did three summits, Pine Peak W5T/DW-003, Summit 6641, W5T/DW-018 and Locke Mount, W5T/DE-003. Locke Mount is the home of the McDonald Observatory.

Pine Peak was a first activation for that summit. It is located within the Nature Conservancy boundary, It is open to the public a couple of weekends a year, so we made sure to be there that weekend. It is a pure bushwhack with no trails to the top, so we had fun making a path.

AD5A on Pine Peak Ascent
 
 
Over the Labor Day Weekend I was able to do three summits in New Mexico. I didn't take any pictures, but had a great time with Alan NM5S activating Cerro Vista, W5N/SS-010, and Cuchillo De Fernando, W5N/SS-013. My daughter-in-Law, Kat, wanted to do a hike, so she accompanied me on an ascent of Summit 9700, W5N/PW-018.
 
I've now crossed the 600 point threshold on my way to the 1,000 points required to earn the Mountain Goat award from SOTA.
 
 
New Radio
 
I bought a used X1M Platinum, the 5 band QRP rig from China. I will need to play with it a little more, but so far I'm impressed. For the price, it's a nice rig. I suppose the jury is out on durability, but time will be a good test for that. It's SSB and CW, smaller than the FT-817. It has 80,40,20,15 and 10m bands. However it has the ability to transmit on the other bands, but the filtering would need to be added. I'm sure there are tons of mods for this radio.
 
I will try to catch up over the next few days.
 
 


Friday, August 15, 2014

North America SOTA Activity Weekend, Setptember 13-14


North America SOTA Activity Weekend 2014, September 13ths and 14th, is a casual event involving tiny battery-powered radios on mountain summits.  It i s not a contest but is intended to introduce "Summits on the Air" to newcomers with home stations who try to work summit operators during one or two days. There are no rules regarding power levels, modes or number of bands worked, but please be courteous when more than one station is trying to talk to a SOTA operator on a summit.  The SOTA operators have just climbed mountains as high as 14,000 feet; they use low power; and they don't receive on split frequencies.
 
Check SOTAWATCH.org to spot who is on which mountain.  Summits are numbered, and you can hover your cursor over the number to see the name and point value for each summit.  Expect the website to show activity near 7.032, 7.185, 10.110, 14.342, 18.095, 18.155, 21.350, 24.905, 24.955, 28.420, 146.52, 446.00, and 61 Khz up from the bottom of 20, 15, and 10 meters CW.  Participants are invited to collect points toward certificates and trophies offered by the twelve-year-old international SOTA group (SOTA.org.UK).  As we learned in past years, this is a barrel of fun for both hill climbers and home operators.  See you then. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Rocky Mountain Rendezvous

I was fortunate to attend the SOTA Rocky Mountain Rendezvous that occurred from July 31 - Aug. 3 in Buena Vista, CO. This year's Rendezvous was a no-host affair with informal gathering of SOTA Activators. Participants consisted of  locals, visitors in rented cabins, campers, etc.... It was a great time. The group that I was a part of rented a house about 12 miles outside of Buena Vista and little did we know there were two SOTA peaks within a 5 minute drive to the base of the mountains. Staying in the rented vacation home were Fred KT5X (aka WS0TA), Guy N7UN (ask NS0TA), John K1JD, Doc K7SO, Alan NM5S, Curtis KC5CW, my grandsons Reid KF5GYE and Boogie KF5GYD (both General Class), my XYL Cris KC5HZQ and myself.. Camping, about 5 minutes away at the base of Kaufman Ridge, was Steve, WG0AT along with Acorn and Barley.

We had a Dutch cookout on Friday night which attracted all the finest people including, Bryan N0BCB w/XYL and friends,Walt W0CP w/XYL,  Dave NN5K w/XYL. Seems like some others, but these are who I can remember. We had a great time grilling burgers, steaks, brats, etc... and swapping SOTA stories.

The RMR coincided with the 14er event put together by Bob K0NR, who stopped by the SOTA house on Saturday night along with his XYL Joyce, K0JJW. The event is an annual event (ham14er.org) which encourages hams to actuvate one of the 14,000 ft. summits in Colorado. As a SOTA chaser and activator, it is a cool event with lots of activity on both HF and VHF.

While in Colorado I was able to active 3 Summits, Kaufman Ridge (10,700 ft. ASL) W0C/SP-081, Horseshoe Mountain (13,900 ft. ASL) W0C/SR-064 and Mt. Sherman (14,034 ft. ASL) W0C/SR-061.

My grandsons and I were fortunate to be able to climb Kaufman Ridge with Steve, WG0AT and he two SOTA Goats, Barley and Acorn. We had a great hike and my grandsons loved interfacing with the goats. Steve did a video of our climb and it can be found at the link below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcWGh7Wl3Gw


                                                               KF5GYE (Reid), Barley and Acorn on Kaufman Ridge



                                                          K1JD and AD5A on Mt.Sherman, 14,034 ft.



                                                             KF5GYD (Boogie) on Horseshoe Mt. (13,900 ft. ASL)



                                                      Panorama from Horseshoe Mt. (13,900)

It was a great trip and something all SOTA activators should consider doing.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Solar Superstorm of 2012

As we hams bemoan the fact that sun spots are sparse currently we can't forget the power of the sun. Below is a link to an interesting article, recently published, and  a video on what could have been a disastorous Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) in April of 2012.

http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2014/23jul_superstorm/

It never hurts to have a back-up plan.

Monday, July 21, 2014

After 25 Years

Last February I celebrated 25 years in Amateur Radio. Unlike many who were licensed at a  young age, I didn't get my ticket until I was 32 years old. In fact I recieved my license the same day that my then 12 year old son,Michael received his. We had consecutive calls, KB5ILS and KB5ILT. We subsequently upgraded to extra and received AB5EA and AB5EB. My son kept the later call but I recieved the vanity call AD5A in 1996.

As a teenager my cousin exposed me to shortwave listening. As many of us will say, it was magic to be able to sit in my bedroom and hear signals from around the world. I was mesmerized. I couldn't wait for the mailman each day to see if a QSL card might arrive. However, there were no local hams, learning morse code seemed impossilble, so I never pursued my ham license until years later, when I came across a Gordon West course in the local Radio Shack. The course cover proclaimed that a novice license was good for 10 years and you could talk on 10 meters. I bought the course, my 12 year son listened along as I did, we learned the code together.

So fast forward 25 years, what has changed? I supposed in many ways things have changed a lot. Things like:

- Internet
- Email
- Enhanced Digital Modes
- Online Confirmations
- Equipment functionality

I'm sure I'm missing a few things, but the efficient access to information is much easier now. QSL routes used to be one of the great mysteries of the world, in fact, INDEXA used to have a net on 14.236 that dipensed the lastest QSL route news. Setting schedules required weeks/months of letter writing. Increasing your DXCC count meant turning the dial, find the pile-ups and then back down to figure out the split, find which DX station might be on and then jumping into the fray . Logging was manual and data mining your log for forgotten contacts was a laborious task, but just as rewarding. DXing news came in weekly newletters not daily emails.

But there are some things that haven't changed:

- The concern over how to fund expensive expeditions
- Frequency cops
- QRMer's
- Complaining about the cost of getting a real QSL card
- The thrill of receiving that QSL card
- The excitement of a new one
- The magic of wirelessly communicating around the world
- Dayton, Friedrichshafen, DXCC, IOTA, WABA, etc....

Like some many things, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Here is a toast to the next 25 years, God willing.



Saturday, July 19, 2014

Who Needs Sunspots

I read that July 18th was the first day without sunspots since sometime in 2012. That's not a good sign for sure. I'm definitely not a solar expert, but I do know that zero sunspots is bad for propagation. That said, last night I worked VK5CZ at 0124z on 15m operating QRP from a summit in Australia.Then this morning I worked GW0PEB/P on 15m from a summit in Wales and a couple minutes later snagged HB9BCB/p on 17m from a summit in Switzerland. Not bad for having a spotless sun. Who needs them anyway?

Just in case, let's hope a few show up:-)

Sunday, July 6, 2014

European Vacation - Friedrichshafen

I am flying back to the US as I type this. Obviously I will have to wait to publish it when I get home, but I thought I would write these thoughts down while they are still fresh. I have been writing a little about my trip to Europe, but the trip has been very busy and I have gotten behind. So, I will go back in time a few days to catch up.

One of the reasons for this trip was to attend the Friedrichshafen Ham Fair. I was attending the convention for the first time and I was not disappointed. The Ham Fair has a large hall of vendors with all the major radio brands and the latest gadgets, a nice stream of lectures on a wide variety of topics, a nice flea market full of classic gear and hard to find items. But best of all the the opporunity to renew acquiantances with old friends get acquainted with new friends.


I was able to make acquiantances with some SOTA  guys from across the pond. In the picture above from the left, HB9DOT, HB9CST, MM0FMF (Andy from the SOTA MT)                                                , and myself. A tradition at Friedrichshafen is for the SOTA guys to meet at the QSL card wall at 12:00 noon on Saturday.

                                               
                                                One of the Flea Market Halls

A few things about the convention were notable. First of all, most of the national societies from Europe have booths there. Only a few had meaningful displays, but they all flew there flags proudly. Additionally          ,       in the flea market, there was an abundance of surplus WW II vintage radio gear. When you think about it, it makes sense. Only a small percentage of the gear used in the war made it's way back to the U.S. There were some very interesting pieces of equipment. You could have purchased a completely restored Enigma machine for 33,000 pounds sterling . The Enigma was a device that was used by the Germans during the war to code messages. There was a huge effort by the Allies to figure out how to decipher these coded messages. There is a museum commemorated that effort at Bletchley Park in England. 



                    The Enigma Machine

          An Interesting Piece of Military Radio Gear

Lastly, the surrounding area around Friedrichshafen is beautiful. The town sits on the shores of Lake Constance. You can set on the shores of the lake and see the mountains of Switzerland and Austria.

For the American visitor to Friedrichshafen, you can feel comfortable that there is enough English spoken to get by on most things. However, it is wise to study a little basic German, expecially if you will rent a car, to understand traffice signs and to figure out menus. That said, it is not a big problem. The program of lectures will let you now what language the sessions are in, so you don't have to wonder if you can understand the presentations,

It is a very worthwhile trip for many reasons. I wiould highly recommend it.