Tag Archives: 6m

Heading up to Apple Orchard Mountain this weekend.

Like last year, I’ll be heading over to Apple Orchard Mountain to support the annual APRS Golden Packet Event.  My friends Dave KB3RAN and Steve N3IPN are once again part of the team with the addition of Ed KC3EN joining us for the long slog up the mountain.

In addition to operating APRS, we’ll also be active on HF and VHF+.  You can watch for spots from us on the SOTAwatch2 site.

Changes from last year

Last year we didn’t quite know what to expect; we ended up bringing way too much stuff and it was all way too heavy.  This year weight is a primary concern and we don’t plan on making the same mistake again.

My friendly postal carrier dropped off a box just yesterday which contained the new heart of my station.  I’ve heard good things about these new LifePO batteries so I figured I’d get one to try it out for myself.  So far I’m impressed.  I’ve not really put it under a load test, yet, but if it really gives me the watt-hours that it says it will at ~3 lbs, I’ll be ecstatic!

Another change is that I’ll be bringing my Elecraft K1 with SOTABEAMS Band Springer Midi antenna.  This is an extremely lightweight HF setup and has proven itself to work quite well (you can read about my adventure activating Emmaville Mountain North up in Pennsylvania with this setup).

Listen for us!

We’ll be on the air from the summit starting Saturday, 15 July 2017, morning (likely around 1400Z) and will stay on the air until early to mid afternoon.  I’ll be chirping on APRS (WG3K-7) if you need to get a message to me while we’re up on mountain!

73!

Activating Apple Orchard Mountain (W4V/RA-001)

On Saturday, 16 July 2016, Dave KB3RAN, Steve N3IPN, and I hiked up Apple Orchard Mountain (SOTA W4V/RA-001) to activate it for the Appalachian Trail Golden Packet event.  While we were there we took advantage of the altitude and activated the summit for Summits on the Air (SOTA), National Parks on the Air (NPOTA), and the CQ WW VHF Contest.

Getting to the summit

Steve N3IPN and Eric WG3K hauling their gear.

Steve N3IPN and Eric WG3K hauling their gear.  Photo by Dave Hardy KB3RAN

Wow, getting to the top isn’t easy.  First we took way too much stuff.  We were, however, prepared for most anything.  Suffice it to say we’ll be better prepared for hiking and less prepared for anything next time we activate a summit.

We were originally hoping that one of the existing tenants on the mountain could have allowed us access by vehicle to the top but everyone was otherwise engaged and so we were left to drag everything up the service road to the top on foot.

The service road is a nice, paved road of approximately six-tenths of a mile in length.  It is grueling carrying a bunch of stuff to the top, however, and it took us around 45 minutes to traverse the distance hauling our wagons.

Convenient vehicle parking is available just north of the service road along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Setting up the gear

Eric gets the APRS digipeater on the air.

Eric gets the APRS digipeater on the air. Photo by Steve Hempling N3IPN

Our first priority was setting up the APRS digipeater for the AT Golden Packet event (as AOMTN-5).  We were running late so we wasted no time putting the antenna up ~12 feet in the air and powering on the radio.  We were rewarded by hearing packets coming through from both Northern Virginia to our north and Comers Rock to our south.

Because we had setup the station quickly we didn’t get an opportunity to look around and determine if there was a better location for our station.  Turns out we were close to the summit but needed to continue a few hundred yards further to reach it.  After catching our breath and regaining a little strength we picked up the APRS digipeater, feedline, and antenna and moved it to the summit.  I don’t think the performance of our setup improved but the views certainly did!

Panaramic shot towards the northwest from Apple Orchard summit.

Panoramic shot towards the northwest from Apple Orchard summit.  Antennas are up and rain is approaching!  Photo by Eric Christensen WG3K

There isn’t much shade on the summit so it’s important to either bring some sort of shelter or move off the summit a bit.  Just to the north is a rock pile with several trees growing that could offer some shelter if needed.

Other users of the summit

There is no shortage of antennas on Apple Orchard Mountain.  As this is the highest summit in the area, at 4215 feet, so many people want their radio systems up there.

Many antennas on Apple Orchard Mountain

Some of the antennas on Apple Orchard Mountain.  Photo by Eric Christensen WG3K

One user of concern for SOTA activators is the WA1ZMS 2m beacon on 144.285MHz.  Due to the proximity of this auxiliary station the weak-signal portion of the 2m band is likely unusable.  We were lucky that WA1ZMS was able to turn off the beacon for the AT Golden Packet event since the frequency used was close to the beacon’s frequency.

Contacts

AT Golden Packet Event

The mission was to link up the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.  Using fifteen digipeaters, we pass messages along the Trail to prove that we can setup an ad-hoc network on short notice.  We were successful in seeing sites 3 through 12 this year.  We also tested 9600 baud which also worked well.  Simplex voice communications were used to help coordinate the event on UHF.

SOTA/NPOTA/CQ WW VHF

We also activated for SOTA, NPOTA, and CQ WW VHF Contest.  Conditions weren’t great and most of my contacts on 6m and 2m were limited to a few grid squares around.  I did manage one contact out to the Midwest but most of my contacts were very much local.

It was fun giving out W4V/RA-001 for SOTA and TR01 for NPOTA.  I also worked a station that had 432MHz capabilities even though it wasn’t for the contest; I’m all about putting the contacts in the log.

The antennas used were a Buddipole 2-element 6m yagi and horizontal loops for 2m and 70cm.  The radio was a Yaesu FT-857D.

Contact Summary

  • Six Meters – 10 Contacts
  • Two Meters – 9 Contacts
  • 70 Centimeters – 1 Contact
  • Voice – 18 Contacts
  • CW – 2 Contacts

Other missions

Another mission that I was successful in was updating OpenStreetMap data for the area.  Updating this information will hopefully provide others wishing to activate the summit with better cartographic information.


View Larger Map

Summary

I haven’t talked about Dave and Steve’s attempts at activating the summit.  In spite of good radios and antennas the contact count wasn’t great.  Part of the problem was that we didn’t have any way of self-spotting on the SOTAwatch2 site meaning that their QRP signals just couldn’t be found easily.  Hopefully we won’t have this problem next time.

Oh, did I mention six meters was open?

Turning on the radio this morning I was surprised to hear Puerto Rico coming in loud and clear on 50.125MHz. Once I had KP4EIT and HI3TEJ (Dominican Republic) in the logs I checked the DX Cluster to check the activity. There appeared to be many other stations from the Southeastern United States working towards the Caribbean. A few hours later the Sporatic-E opening moved towards the west and soon I was working into the Midwest and into Eastern Canada.

I did check two-meters but never heard any activity.

Image represents contacts made from FM18rq.  Station locations represent grid locator (grid square) center.  C=CW, S=SSB, J=J65A or J9

The twenty-three contacts, representing twenty-one grids, I put in the log were made using mostly CW with SSB, JT65A, and JT9 rounding out the rest of the modes.

Beacons

During a lull in activity I rolled down to the bottom of the band to check for beacons:

DX de WG3K: 50007.7 VA2ZFN/B FM18<EM92 1845Z 2016-07-12 18:45:00
DX de WG3K: 50059.0 VE3UBL/B FM18<FN03 1839Z 2016-07-12 18:39:00
DX de WG3K: 50067.5 N8PUM/B FM18<EN66 1827Z 2016-07-12 18:27:00
DX de WG3K: 50073.0 K0KP/B FM18<EN36 1825Z 2016-07-12 18:25:00

Reverse Beacons

I also took a look at the Reverse Beacon Network and found that I had been heard a few times:

DX de K9IMM-#: 50098.0 WG3K CW 25 dB 16 WPM CQ 1717Z 2016-07-12 17:17:42
DX de WE7L-#: 50097.90 WG3K CW 16 dB 16 WPM CQ 1707Z 2016-07-12 17:07:47

Operating Portable from Apple Orchard Mountain

During the weekend of July 16th I plan on being atop Apple Orchard Mountain, in Virginia, operating in the AT Golden Packet event as well as doing some VHF+ work while I’m there.  I’ll be accompanied by Dave, KB3RAN, and Steve, N3IPN, who are planning to operate QRP HF voice and digital.  This should be a fun adventure…

Supported Events

Expected Operating Frequencies

AT Golden Packet

  • 144.340MHz – AT APRS
  • 444.925MHz – Coordination
  • 144.390MHz – US APRS

General Operating

  • 50.185MHz USB +/- or 50.096MHz CW +/-
  • 144.285MHz USB +/- or 144.060MHz CW +/-
  • 432.100MHz and up
  • 14.060MHz PSK? +/- (KB3RAN)
  • Another HF frequency (N3IPN)
  • 144.390MHz – APRS (WG3K or WG3K-6 and/or WG3K-7)

 

10m and 6m band opening

Heard 10m was open this morning but concentrated my efforts on 6m as it is rarely open this time of year.  Worked NJ2F, N2WB, N3LL, W4LT, and K4MM, all from Florida.  I didn’t really hear anyone else on but the Florida stations were saying that the bands were crowded!