Mt. Helix – SOTA Activation – W6/SC-352 – June 23, 2016

This was an early morning SOTA activation of Mt. Helix (W6/SC-352) close to San Diego. A joint activation with KB6CIO (Bob) after an early morning coffee close to Mt. Helix.

The summit offers some great views and a church amphitheater with sufficient shade to operate and setup your antenna. Mt. Helix is worth a visit and highly recommended whenever one happens to be in the area.

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Amphitheater Mt. Helix

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Mt. Helix

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Setup in the shade

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Antenna setup

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Field log

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KB6CIO and WN6E

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Summit views

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Summit views

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Summit views

The bands were pretty much dead and so we called it a day before the heat started to develop in full strength.

The log from the summit:

Date:23/Jun/2016 Summit:W6/SC-352 (Mount Helix) Call Used:WN6E

Time Call Band Mode Notes
16:01z NA6MG 144MHz FM 146.58
16:02z K7WYV 144MHz FM
16:05z AE6AV 144MHz FM
16:11z NG6R 144MHz FM
16:32z NS7P 14MHz CW 14.062 MHz
16:35z W7CNL 14MHz CW
16:41z NJ7V 7MHz SSB 7.185 MHz, STS W7A/CS-022
17:00z NJ7V 7MHz CW 7.037 MHz, STS W7A/CS-022

Thank you to all the chasers and their patience due to the band conditions and my CW.

73,

WN6E

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Mt. Lawlor – SOTA Activation – W6/CT-089 – April 2, 2016

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Mt. Lawlor Summit

Started from home at 4:30am and reached the Redbox Parking Lot at the intersection to the Mt. Wilson Observatory and Highway 2 around 5:45am. After admiring the sunrise the hike started around 6:00am a magnificent walk in the morning breeze up to the saddle where the trails to Mt. Lawlor and Strawberry Peak start.

The trail to Mt. Lawlor is partly overgrown and one has to take care not to loose it. In any case when in doubt just move up towards the summit. On my way down I lost the trail and ended up in the middle of nowhere which required hiking back up for quite some time until I found the right way down again.

On the summit I set up for HF and enjoyed the tremendous views before starting on 146.52 FM. I have to admit I rarely use FM on summits but today I got so many calls that I stayed quite a while on FM and had a S2S with Neil (K6KWI) on Niguel Hill. On 20m Bob (KB6CIO) spotted me but for 30 min no contact so I switched to CW but broke a wire on my key – my apologies to the chasers coming back to my CQ – my repair attempt didn’t work out.

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Trail close to Redbox Parking

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Sunrise

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Panorama from the trail

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On the trail to the saddle

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Summit trail

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On the way

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Summit view

Thank you for the contacts from Mt. Lawlor:

Date:02/Apr/2016  –  Summit:W6/CT-089 –  (Mt. Lawlor) –  Call Used:WN6E

Time Call Band Mode Notes
15:50z N6HEG 144MHz FM 146.52 MHz
15:51z KN6CCW 144MHz FM
16:00z NG6R 144MHz FM
16:02z KM6DM 144MHz FM
16:05z KX6A 144MHz FM
16:06z K6CMG 144MHz FM
16:24z K6WWI 144MHz FM
16:29z K6KWI 144MHz FM S2S  W6/SC-371

73,

WN6E

Pt. 2000 Temecula, CA – SOTA Activation – W6/CT-221 – July 16, 2015

Operating Site

Operating Site

On relative short notice Bob (KB6CIO) joined me for a SOTA activation near Temecula, CA. It was extremely hot even during the early morning hours and propagation was not our friend. It was extremely difficult to make contacts but we finally managed to make a few.

The California drought conditions are really apparent in this area around Temecula and require an early activation time – even early is a relative term.

So this is just a short report with some views of Pt. 2000 (actually a hill next to it but within the activation zone) the actual summit is on private property.

Station Setup

Station Setup

Bob working chasers

Bob working chasers

Summit View

Summit View

View towards Temecula

View towards Temecula

More views

More views

Thanks to all the chasers for the QSOs despite the dreadful propagation conditions.

Date:16/Jul/2015  Summit:W6/CT-221 (Pt. 2000)  Call Used:WN6E

Time Call Band Mode Notes
15:57z W0MNA 14MHz CW 14.061 MHz
15:58z W0ERI 14MHz CW
16:23z W7RV 7MHz CW 7.045 MHz
17:00z NA6MG 10MHz CW 10.110 MHz – very weak signal 222

73,

WN6E

“Top of the World” – SOTA Activation W6/SC-369 – April 8, 2015

“Top of the World” that’s the name of W6/SC-369 (Point 1036) above Laguna Beach, CA. The name is on signs at the parking area and the trail leading to the summit. The views are spectacular and this is a great summit to activate, relax and enjoy the view.

The “Top of the World” was my second activation using CW no phone mode at all not even FM. The last few days I kept going on my training software at 20WPM with over 90% results. Sounds great yeah, but means nothing, absolutely nothing!!

As mentioned before the real thing is the real thing and not software. I got stuck several times had to slow down, couldn’t copy, had brain blanking – you name it – everything the book has to offer for CW newbies. Thanks to all the chasers for their tremendous patience and their slowing down, repeating their calls and reports. My apologies for the ones I just could not copy especially at the end of the activation.

But no matter what I will keep going with CW on SOTA and in general – my microphone will not be used until I reach an acceptable speed in sending and receiving. Now that sounds scary …………

SOTA summit

SOTA summit

There is a problem with the SOTA database for this summit the referenced coordinates point to a residential area much lower than the actual summit. Just keep on walking to the “Top of the World”.

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Equipment used

Antenna setup

Antenna setup

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach

View towards Irvine, CA

View towards Irvine, CA

View of Santiago Peak

View of Santiago Peak

Pacific Ocean

Pacific Ocean

Summit

Summit

Mountain ranges from the summit

Mountain ranges from the summit

A thorny activation

A thorny activation

Summit meadow after a few hours of rain

Summit meadow after a few hours of rain

QSOs from the summit:

Date:08/Apr/2015 – Summit:W6/SC-369 (Pt. 1036)  – Call Used:WN6E

Time Call Band Mode Notes
08:58z NS7P 14MHz CW
09:03z NE4TN 14MHz CW
09:04z K8LWG 14MHz CW
09:05z K4MF 14MHz CW
09:10z N6JZT 14MHz CW
09:15z NA6EDE 14MHz CW
09:18z K6XM 14MHz CW
09:39z N4EX 21MHz CW
09:40z W0MNA 21MHz CW
09:41z W0ERI 21MHz CW
09:55z WA6ARA 7MHz CW

A great activation I had lots of fun thanks to all the chasers.

73,

WN6E    ditdit.

SOTA Activation of Signal Peak, CA – W6/SC-362 – April 3, 2015 – First time using CW as an activator

After a longer break due to a work assignment abroad I tackled Signal Peak, CA for an activation together with Bob KB6CIO. Signal Peak is relatively easy accessible, provides some shade in the current drought related situation in Southern California and allows for a shorter afternoon activation including “apres activation” coffee.

The last few month I have diligently followed my daily or almost daily CW training using computer and cellphone related software. So I decided to give CW a try for the Signal Peak activation. I prepared an old J-38 key purchased for a couple of dollars from ebay for my FT-817ND, installed a 500KHz CW filter (lucky I did) and “boldly went where I hadn’t gone before”.   Bob put out a spot for me and I started calling CQ on the 20m CW portion of the band – then reality kicked in.

Where do you put the key? My leg didn’t work the connection wire was to short, so much for diligently prepared, anyway I managed somehow on the ground. Then the first chasers came back to me some strong, some weaker in any case it was a little pileup causing an immediate brain fry with the bold activator. Quite a difference to whatever software related training you do. Each operator has his own CW signature plus a pileup situation I could not copy much at all. So I answered with a “?” and broke the key connection wire in due course. So no answer from the activator instead I was fumbling with the broken wire and completely blanked out. I could not copy anything.

It was good that I had to fix the wire connection that gave me time to put my act together. My apologies to the chasers trying to call me. When I could finally send again I repeated my CQ tried to relax (sure…….) and finally managed to copy something W0MNA (Gary from Kansas). Gary patiently repeated his call until I got it including RST exchange and ditdit. Next was W0ERI (Martha), NS7P and WA2USA. Four CW contacts  – I just activated Signal Hill using CW.

At that time I was mentally drained CW is not SSB, but CW it is definitely much more fun. I am hooked now – again thank you for all the chasers calling and my sincere apology for the ones I missed due to brain fry or broken wires.

Rattlesnake

Rattlesnake

Summit marker

Summit marker

Antenna farm near the peak

Antenna farm near the peak

Panorama view 360 degrees including Bob - KB6CIO and my fingertip

Panorama view 360 degrees including Bob – KB6CIO and my fingertip

Newport Beach and the Pacific Ocean

Newport Beach and the Pacific Ocean

Antenna setup right on the peak

Antenna setup right on the peak

Antenna

Antenna

Operating site

Operating site

Skeleton remains of a coyote meal

Skeleton remains of a coyote’s meal

Equipment setup

Equipment setup

On the way up to the hill I nearly stepped on a rattlesnake sunbathing on the trail – it was really close. Other incidences during the activation were severe transpiration caused by the sun and CW brain blanking, a broken antenna pole and broken morse key wires.

QSOs at this activation:

20m (CW): W0MNA, W0ERI, NS7P, WA2USA

12m (SSB): W0MNA, W0ERI

2m (FM): K6CMG

See you on the next summit.

73 WN6E ditdit

First CW contact

After two SOTA contacts using CW well let’s call it more appropriate contact struggles, I had my first real CW conversation.

I answered a CQ call from K5ZU and he came back to me. That triggered a short blanking – I was so surprised to receive an answer.
Nevertheless K5ZU had the patience to endure the QSO with plenty QRS and repeats. Thanks for his patience.

I have still a long way to go and intensify my copy skills.

WN6E

Learning CW – thoughts about the current status

My journey into CW has been interrupted several times and I am finally back to the daily 15 min training using the Koch method.

It is a slow process and I have to admit that I cannot say its easy or straight forward – not at all. Even I have set the training software to 20 wpm I still have the tendency to think in dots and dashes not in sound for the letters and numbers. Anyway I stick with it and we will see how long it will take to reach the first step of the journey – a basic QSO.

A few years back I purchased two Hendricks kits. One an antenna tuner for QRP and the Hendricks PFR-3a QRP rig (CW only, 3 bands). The tuner kit was supposed to be simple and I used it as a training piece before tackling the QRP rig assembly. Lucky I did because I killed the tuner in the assembly process – I am just awful with soldering and the tuner kit is the living proof.

So the Hendricks QRP kit ended up not being built. Recently I had a conversation with Chris (K6CMG) about CW and lighter SOTA rigs – well to make a long story short he offered to build the Hendricks PFR-3a. The kit was finished last week and I could test it and even managed to tune an antenna on 40m (tuning with that radio is not that simple) – thanks Chris you did a terrific job.

This radio is CW only as I mentioned before and perfect for SOTA from the weight and dimensions. So one more reason to go into CW and learn it.

DSC_7223Hendricks PFR-3A assembled by K6CMG