Monday, December 29, 2014

Holiday SOTA Activations

So here we are, another year has past, and it seems, at warp speed. I hope each of you are enjoying the holiday season, however you celebrate it. Our family celebrates Christmas and I was able to spoil my grandchildren, so it has been fun indeed. Happy New Year as we approach 2015, and may you have health and happiness.

I am spending a few days at my Santa Fe, NM QTH for the holidays. There is snow on the ground and its only been above freezing about 3 hours since last Friday. However its a dry cold so its not too bad.

As always when I'm here I try to squeeze in some Summits on the Air (SOTA) activations. So far I've been able to do a couple as detailed below.

The Wagon Mound W5N/EL-016  6,930ft ASL  6 pts

The Wagon Mound gets its name from it's appearance. Without too much imagination you can see the outline of an old Conestoga Wagon on the summit outline. I chose this summit primarily because I've never done it, but also because, for the peaks in the area, it is at a relatively low elevation and the snow cover should be much less than higher peaks. When I departed Santa Fe, it was clear, sunny and 19F. I envisioned very thin snow cover, if any, on the mountain.

I was in for a little surprise, as you will see from the video below.


Wagon Mound, NM is 104 miles northeast of my QTH near Lamy, NM. About half way there we encountered fog. Visibility dropped, at times, to about 50 yards and the temperature dropped to 7F. I was beginning to have my doubts about making the climb. It was obvious that the snow accumulations were significantly more here, than back home. However I continued, postponing my decision until I could see the actual conditions at the base of the mountain..

Upon arrival, conditions had improved a little, visibility to 1 mile and the temperature was 13F at the base of the mountain. It wasn't a long climb, but it was steep. There was about 12 inches of snow on the ground. The problem with that is that this climb was a bushwhack over volcanic rocks and cactus. The snow cover completely disguised what might or might not be underneath. I decided to make the attempt. Cris, my XYL, was with me and she was willing to try as well. After all, we had just come over 100 miles.

The footing was treacherous. I had to plant my foot through the snow to discover what footing was below, whether solid ground or slippery rocks.We took our time and turned what should have been a 20 minute climb into about 40 minutes.

We set up about 30 feet below the summit, well into the activation zone. I used my KX3, 31 ft. piece of wire elevated with a 21 foot mast through a 9 to 1 balun, tuned by the KX3's tuner. Despite weather conditions, propagation was very good. I worked 31 stations on 20m CW in 18 minutes, a quick QSY to 40m yielded no results and since it was cold I didn't try any other bands. We packed up and retraced our steps down.

All in all a very satisfying activation given the challenges. We stopped on our way home in Las Vegas, NM and warmed ourselves up with some Mexican Food. A good day.

Summit 6860 W5N/SI-022  6,860ft ASL  6 pts

After my experience heading north, I decided to go south for my next activation. This summit is east of Albuquerque NM just south of I-40 and 67 miles from my QTH. This is a nice summit. Depending on where you start, the hike is 2. to 3 miles round trip. The elevation change is about 800 feet over that distance. There are numerous crisscrossing trails over the terrain, so there are multiple ways to get to summit. The trails are all nice trails, no bushwhacking required on this one.

The weather was near perfect for climbing, about 40 degrees, sunshine and little wind. Very enjoyable. You will see from the video below that the conditions were splendid and there was a little snow on the ground.


I used the same set-up here as described above. Conditions were good, 31 QSO's on 15, 20, and 30 meters.

So 12 more points in the log and some good exercise and, obviously, some stories to tell.

Happy New Year!!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Tromelin, Andamans and SOTA

It's been a while since I've sit down to write down a few thoughts. I've intended on several occasions to sit down and write down my thoughts, but it seems some other priority asserts itself and I can't get the time to write. But not today.

So what's happened since I last blogged.

Tromelin Expedition FT4TA: The expedition team did a great job, making nearly all bands available with good signals, at least in South Texas. I enjoyed both working the expedition, to fill some band slots, but also the event. The daily news, conditions, the complaining, etc.... I worked them on 10m, 15m, 20m, 30m and 80m. All new bands except 20m. My practice, as I have written about here, is to try to work the expeditions, during the last days, QRP. I was not able to do that on this expedition. The pile-ups never really slacked off, which brings me to my point.

Now that many expeditions use Club Log and other online tools to post how many QSO's each caller has logged, the information is leading to much debate. I am on a particular reflector where an individual copied and posted the band scorecard for multiple individuals and berated them for making multiple band/mode contacts when so many needed Tromelin for an all time new one.

My thoughts on this one: As long as an individual doesn't dupe band/mode slots, working the expedition is fair game. If a DXer builds a station that is capable and puts in the time operating to work Tromelin on 20 band slots, why not. Telling him not to is like telling a guy with a Ferrari that he can only drive the speed limit.  If, for whatever reason, a dipole is all you have, you know that working rare DX is a tough proposition. Why should the capable stations be made to wait on those not so capable. In my early days of DXing, not working an expedition motivated me to improve my station, improve my operating skills, improve my understanding of propagation, etc... Failure is often life's greatest teacher.

DX-peditions can control this somewhat by limiting the number of bands they operate on, but those guys paid their money, why shouldn't they have all the fun they can.

Andamans VU4CB and VU4KV:  This team also did a nice job activating a pretty rare place, that from my part of the world, is difficult to work.  I was able to get QSO's on a few bands and was impressed with the operation. I was not able to work these guys on QRP either. VU4VB operated from a rare IOTA which I also chased. So, please all around on this one.

SOTA Activations: I did find time to get in four SOTA activations near my Santa Fe, NM QTH during November. I activated three peaks, along with Fred KT5X and John K1JD, southeast of Albuquerque, NM.

Summit 8455 W5N/EL-002

This was a full day of activating. The first peak was a 100 mile drive, but well worth it. All of the three peaks were in excess of 8,000 feet. The picture above is of the first summit we activated, about a mile hike to the top. You can see from the pictures that a wildfire some years ago delineates our path to the top.

View from 8455

The reward, besides activator points, from being involved in SOTA, are the views.

More Views

The additional points achieved from these activations moved me to a total of 719 points in my quest to get to a 1,000 and earn the esteemed title of "SOTA Goat"

I love this radio stuff.....Until next time...73