Sunday, February 1, 2015

End Fed Tuner

I finished this a while ago but have not had a chance to see if it works until now. It is based off of the design on the SOTABeams Web Site. In fact I purchased one of the SOTA Beams tuners as a gift for someone and took the opportunity to take a look see and it is very well constructed. The only thing I would do different is to attach the coax and make the container smaller but the SOTA Beams case is very functional and designed that way for a reason, outlined on their website. So if you do not want to build one you can always buy one from SOTA Beams.

Here is the schematic:

For the case I used a plastic mint case. You can make one much smaller but I liked having the extra room. I ran the RG-174 into the case and tied it into a knot so it could not come out or put stress on the components. Unfortunately I did not take a picture of the inside of the finished product before I sealed it up.

The wire lengths are as follows:
40 Meter is 66.6 feet
30 Meter is 46.6
20 Meter is 33.2
17 Meter is 25.9

I had to adjust the coil turns to get it on 17 meters but it works fine. I am using about 6 feet for a counterpoise but was able to tune it fine without the counterpoise save 17 meters. The antenna wire is number 26 teflon coated slippery stuff linked together with connectors I picked up from Hobby King a long time ago. Any type of an electrical connector will work fine.

Tuner and Counterpoise
40 through 17 Meters (this is so I will remember when on a summit)
Complete antenna/tuner/coax weighing in at 5.6 oz
For my first use I used my ATS4b transceiver on Mount Herman (a SOTA summit).


tuner connected to the antenna and counterpoise

antenna going into a tree
You cannot see the antenna but the Old Snag center frame is where the other end is connected

My friend wG0AT operating, you can see the tuner to the right, hanging down
This was a fun little project and the tuner is functional and practical. Plus if you do not want to build one it is offered from SOTA Beams complete and in a neat container weighing almost nothing.  Unfortunatley my ATS4b has 15 meters vice 17 meters so it is not a good match for that radio.


Sunday, January 25, 2015

How not to do a SOTA activation

Lynn and I took our time getting to the TH and hit the road at 0830 and got there about 0930. Not a lot of traffic and the sun was out. Temp at the TH was about 30 degrees. We did our summit approach from the North side (shaded side) in three to four feet of snow. It was rough going and with no sun the temp was much lower. Regardless we trekked on. As the bushwack got more vertical we took a break for some tea and to rest before the final ascent. After our break we continued on. Near the summit I noticed my new FT1DR handheld was no longer in my pack. I yelled down to Lynn to pick it up if she saw it but figured with the snow the way it was it was gone until spring. Lynn soon found it by stepping on it and returned it to my pack. I noticed the GPS was not working anymore so I just turned it off.

I know Lynn was cold but figured that once we got back into the sun we would be ok. Once we were on the summit in the sun I threw the antenna in a tree and setup the KX3. I pulled the handheld out, turned it on (GPS still not working) and went through my checklist to get a spot in on the web site. I did not check the freq (cold was affecting me as well) and spotted myself on 14.061 which was where AD5A was operating. I got a quick summit to summit in and figured the crowd would find me a little up in freq after they worked AD5A, which they did. I kept checking on Lynn as she was not saying much and I was trying to encourage her to drink some more hot tea. She was complaining about her feet being cold so I knew our time was limited. To top it off the Elecraft paddles seemed to be acting up and that could had been due to snow on the contacts. I don't know but I was having a hard time sending coherent CW.

Lynn did not want to go through he trouble of spotting again and getting on HF SSB because sometimes the pileups can go for 30 to 60 minutes so she used her handheld to make a few VHF QSOs. To get her last QSO I headed down out of the activation zone and we had a QSO. At this point I noticed her speech was getting slurred so she meet me off the summit and we hastily started down. She had a few moments of sickness and not wanting to move but I kept prodding her to get down the mountain and she kept going. I sure did not want to have to drag her off the mountain.

I started thinking about what was in my back and I knew I could get a fire going and I could have made a shelter but that is just the stuff you think about in these situations. Lynn made it down and once we were on the road walking back to the Jeep in the sun she was getting better. By the time we got in the Jeep with the heat on she was fine. Driving out there was interesting, a fellow in front of me slid in a turn and side swiped a truck coming the other way. I almost did the same but managed to steer towards the snow bank and let the snow stop me. A few miles later we came upon a Toyota Truck that went into a snow bank and I was able to pull him out without much effort. Almost to the end of the road there were no less than three tow trucks trying to get a car that went over the side. It was a pretty steep area. I wanted to stop and check it out but I needed to get Lynn home.

So, no pictures or video. I did get some video of the inside of my pack as my gopro must have turned itself on. I am just glad to be home. I am glad they are not all like this.

Sorry for cutting the CW activation short but I am sure the chasers understand.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

First SOTA Activation of 2015

My first SOTA attempt of 2015 was Cheyenne Mountain with WG0AT but I got terribly sick and we had to descend without making it too far up the mountain.

Our first successful  SOTA activation of 2015 was the summit of 9410 with KC0YQF and WG0AT. It was a tough hike due to the snow fall but it was a lot of fun. 9410 was just what I needed.

The video really tells the story so here it is.


Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015 Straight Key Night

Straight Key Night is a yearly event, sponsored by the ARRL, that encourages hams to dust of their straight keys or bugs and put away the computer and keyer. What it has evolved into is a vintage or Novice station event with CW notes chirping all over the band. It is a lot of fun to just listen to all the different CW notes being produced by less than state-of-the-art equipment.

My novice station was a HW-16 which I sold a little bit ago. It was a fine radio and had a great receiver and QSK. I also used crystals with it as a Novice and it was common practice after calling CQ to scan the whole Novice segment as someone else could be bound to one crystal freq and could not reply to you on your freq. It was a challenge but fun. I am glad I got licensed when I did as new hams will never experience Novice CW only sub bands filled with people learning morse code and increasing their skill. I guess that is what made me a CW operator to this day.

I made it a point to get on the air this SKN with my HW-7 that I purchased from Paul, W0RW, earlier this year. I made a few modifications to it but never got around to the all important RIT function. If I did I would had not needed to rely on crystals for transmit frequency, The HW-7 will transmit without crystals but there is no off-set so you will not hear the other station if they zero beat you. I found out how difficult this could be when I took the HW-7 on a SOTA expedition without crystals.

Regardless, I had a blast pushing a watt or so out to a dipole. I managed to make three QSOs, one by chance and the other two after advertising on the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC) schedule page. These where not long rag chew QSOs but rather short exchanges which was good considering what I was using. I earned each of those QSOs and had a lot of fun in the process.

Thanks to:
AA6GI, Bill in CA
W9EBE, Chip in IL
N5XE, Carl in OK

Here is a video of my little part of the SKN event.

Of note I recently purchased a HW-8 and look forward to using it next year.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Knights Peak (W0C/FR-144) with wG0AT Boo and Peanut

Steve and I decided to do another Friday activation before Christmas. It was a cool day in the Front Range expected to get into the 40s and it was a balmy 19 degrees at the TH of Knights Peak.

Knights Peak is off of Old Stage/Gold Camp Road and very near to 9410 which we activated last week. I got no points for this one as I have already activated it this year but still a lot of fun.

Unloading the Goats is a lot easier than loading them

Boo and Peanut are waiting for the humans

I would guess it was in the single digits in the shade, Brrrr
My APRS Jeep track from work to home to the TH and our Hike
Once on the summit the sun felt great. It was still cold and we had to deal with sweaty clothes so we changed into dry stuff and had lunch. In sort order we deployed the 58 foot longer and connected it to the KX3. Steve got everything setup and went to 15 meters to stir up some activity. The first one to call was Wes Hayward, W7ZOI. Wes is a legend in the area of portable Trail Friendly radios and has been doing this stuff for a long time. His radio designs are worth reading.

Steve stays warm with a hot thermos of unknown contents

Steve at work

The KX3

Homemade paddles and iphone logbook (high speed low drag for sure)
Santa representing
The area
After Steve runs down the pileup and there are no other callers he announces that we are going to 10 meters. Not too long ago that would be enough to get a few chasers over to 10 meters and get spotted but with the Reverse Beacon Network we get a little lazy so after a while of calling CQ I decide to self spot myself via APRS.

At 1932Z my APRS beacon goes in
It was slow going on 10 meters but most of the stations I worked were fairly strong and I could hear a lot of activity on the band. N4EX in NC was booming into Colorado. 10 Meters is amazing when it is open. I did not think of it at the time but we should had checked 6 meters as well.

Peanut Helps

Peanut provides fills when I miss a callsign

Great views from our shack
 While we were getting ready to head down we heard a a couple of C-130s and looking to the North we could see one flying at 13,000 to 15,000 feet and the other at 10,000 feet and he or she flew over Frosty Park which is the TH for Mount Rosa and not too far from us. Unfortunately the battery in my GoPro died and the other one was in the pack. A missed opportunity but very cool to see.

Peanut having a Zen moment

Boo helping out

The video is a little longer than I wanted and I had to cut out some great footage to get it to this length. That is always the hard part when you have 3 hours of video to choose from. The purpose of my videos is not a "how to" guide to hike, SOTA or even Ham Radio they are just meant to show how much fun taking your radio into the field can be. If they inspire one ham to get out and do a SOTA activation or of they get a non-ham interested in ham radio then they have served their purpose. I do have a lot of fun making them.

Here it is