Thursday, March 28, 2013

My KX3 LifePo4 Battery Setup and Charging

Many of you have asked what battery I use on my activations so I created a short video.

I am very happy with this battery so far.  It is a bit of over kill and I could get away with a smaller battery.  The 4200 would fill the SOTA role quite nicely and save on some weight.  Feel free to ask questions or leave your comments.

73's and Keep Climbing

Thursday, March 21, 2013

One day this pack will be mine!

Ok, I know I have posted in the past about the Eberlestock equipment but I have come to the conclusion that this is the ultimate SOTA distance backpack.  Compact enough for day hikes, but expands for longer missions.  They have some excellent features that are great for activators.

The features that I find awesome are the huge amount of PALS or MOLLE webbing.  This pack has tons both inside and out.  This makes the pack mission programmable letting the operator pick and choose how to outfit his load out how he sees fit.

Also the weapons scabbard is a great feature for a SOTA operator.  Now, your standard SOTA guy is not going to be carrying a scoped rifle into the field.  But the scabbard is the perfect place for any long antenna related accessory.  It is close to the body therefore keeping the center of gravity close to the operator.  Also along the back wall of the pack are the radio compartments.  A perfect place to store your radio gear.

Check out the video walkthru here

I think these packs are AMAZING.  If it were not for the cost I would have one already.  Someday!
Oh and it comes in UNICAM...... 


73's and Keep Climbing!

LiPO and LiFePO4 Battery presentation by Jim Pope (KGØPP)

This is a great Battery presentation by Jim Pope (KG0PP)

I use the Zippy 8400 for my KX3.  I think I will make a video of my setup in the near future for anyone with questions.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Mt Sterling, A Cold Night Under the Stars

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

That was one of my favorite poems while in high school.  It reminds me of the times I spent with my Grandfather hunting and walking in the woods.  I also think of it frequently while on SOTA activations.  Activators definitely take the road less traveled in pursuit of our summits.  

And so today I venture onward to a new adventure.  Mt Sterling  W4C/CM-010 is my target today.  At an elevation of 5,842 feet it is one of the higher peaks in the Smokey Mountains.  Climbing nearly 2000 feet in less than three miles, the ascent to the summit is a bit challenging, however, it's a steady climb and the trail is in fairly good shape.  The trail, an old and rocky jeep trail, has some great views.

 The trail head can normally be accessed on the Sterling Gap Road.  Bus as my luck would have it the road was closed.  I had checked the Park Service for closed roads in the area, and I believed this one was open.  I was wrong.  Luckily I had a good map with me.  ALWAYS carry a good map.  I like to use the GPS on my phone but when out and about the cell sometimes cant be trusted.

On my map I found two gravel roads that would take me pretty close to the trail head.  I decided to make a go of it.  The little detour added about another mile to my hike but I was happy to find a trail that went between where I parked and the Mt Sterling trail head.  The hike is a good one, a steady incline on a rocky trail.  I took my time and eventually reached the summit.

I set up camp and readied my gear for an evening of activating.  I strung my 132 foot center fed doublet antenna from the fire tower and sloped it to the northeast.  I also set up my hammock and readied my cold weather gear.

I started off on 20 and 40 meters.  I made contacts with
W4ZV, KD4FVD, N4EX, AE4FZ, KG3W, K4PIC, W4TZM (SUMMIT TO SUMMIT), W6UB, W0EA, N1EU, AND NS7P.  I took a short break to warm my fingers and grab some dinner and then I set up for 80 meters.

I made contacts with W4BRS, WA4HSN, AE4FZ, KI8R ( Congrats on over 700 chaser points!), N4EX, W6UB, W4ZV, K4URE, KB1RJC, KB1RJD, KC2SOU, AD5A, AD4RE, AND WG8Y.  It was  great night and I could have kept going but it was getting cold and the wind was really picking up so i decided to pack my gear and get in my warm sleeping bag.  The temp dropped to around 20 and the wind was blowing at about 30 so my little hammock was a rocking under that fire tower.  But I was as snug as a little bug in a rug.

The wind kept me up a good portion of the night so I didn't get a whole lot of sleep.  As soon as the sun was up I made for home.  It was an awesome night with many contacts.  Thanks to all the chasers!

Also check out the short video I made of the activation.
click here

Thanks for stopping by,

73's and Keep Climbing

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Ok. so this is my first attempt at a doublet antenna.  I used 132ft of 14ga copper wire for the main antenna line, a length of 300ohm flat twin line to run down to my KX3 and auto tuner, and an extension cord winder to attach everything to and wrap up the wire for transport.  I have yet to test this antenna but I hope it will perform well. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Huckleberry Knob, Snowy Beautiful Bald

  I had a tough hike earlier in the week and need a short hike to let my leg rest a bit. So I picked an easy summit. It was a cool snowy day on Huckleberry Knob.  And at about a mile it looked to be an easy fast summit.  The only problem I had was the fact I was dog-sitting my fiance's two dogs.  Not that I mind but they do put aspin on any activation especially a snowy one.

We arrived on site about 10:00 after a fun drive on the Cherohala Skyway.  The road was packed snow and I drive a Smart car, what fun!

 I created a video of the days activity. I tried to incorporate my new Dog cam. Enjoy!

It was a great day.  Max and Gus were great but as you can see their little legs just couldn't make the entire trip.  I bet I wouldn't have this problem with Goats!

73's And Keep Climbing!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Found new cases for the KX3 and Battery Today

Well I was out running some errands, and looking for a pair of waterproof Gortex socks, and I ran across these gems.  They are Polycarbonate Waterproof Cases from Plano.

They come in three sizes and I picked up the small and medium variety.  I had checked the dementions at the store and found that my 8400 Zippy would fit in the small one and my KX3 into the medium.  When I got home I found that they were an excellent fit. 

The battery as you can see is a perfect fit.  It is exactly the type of protection I was looking for. The KX3 below was also a great fit.  Inside the case is a rubber floor that is removable.  I found that I could store some items under it.  The only thing I cant fit is the cheap set of Sony headphones I use.

As you can see both cases fit in the radio pouch for my pack.  I like the idea of the added protection for my KX3.  Again I am trading a little bit of weight for a lot more protection.  I think it is worthwhile tradeoff.

I also added some sheepskin seat-belt covers to my rucksack straps.  I found these some time ago and finally got around to mounting them.  They are verrryyyyy comfy.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


I am happy with my ILBE but I am always on the lookout for great equipment.  For those of you looking for an excellent pack, at a premium price, check out the Eberlestock Packs.

These are some of the nicest gear movers that I have seen.  Every owner that I have spoken with say these packs are the Cadillacs of military style packs. 

Check out the video for the BATTLESHIP

Video of my KX3 and Gear

 A fast video of the gear I carry in the field.  I am always improving on my gear and welcome any ideas or suggestions.  Feel free to post your comments, all are welcome.

Monday, March 4, 2013

A Snowy Mount Mingus Activation

I got lucky today!  I had been wanting to try a first time activation for Mount Mingus W4T/SU-008.
The problem was the only road to get to the trail head, Newfound Gap, had been closed off and on throughout the winter because of snow and ice.  The night before my hike I had planned on another summit because the road was still closed.  As luck would have it the park service issued a Twitter late in the evening that the Gap road was open!
I awoke early knowing that I would have a long day ahead of me.  I had read a few reports of hikers that had hiked to Mingus and knew I would be in for almost a mile of pretty tough bushwhacking in addition to the mile and a half along the Appalachian Trail On the way up the Gap road I was treated with some beautiful views of the snowy Smokey Mountains.

I arrived at my trail head shortly after 7am.  I had decided to begin my hike on the Clingman Dome Road.  As you can see below my little Smart car got me to the gates at the closed Dome road.

 I had a little over a mile on the Dome road to the area where I would intersect the AT.  The snow there was fresh and was generally 4 to 6 inches deep.  Deeper in a few spots but they were few and far between.  The sun was starting to make its way over the mountains and the wind was blowing at a good clip.  The temp was hovering around 15 to 20 degrees.  I made good time on the Dome road.  I stopped several times to take photos. 

Looking Back on my tracks....

Just Awesome.....

To the right you will see where I entered the Appalachian Trail.  There was a faint set of footprints in the snow.  I guess I am not the only crazy person out there!  This part of the trail was pretty easy.  And the snow made the trail nice and soft.  This section of the AT was very quiet and beautiful.  The snow was heavy on the trees and insulated you from most sounds.  It was peaceful.

My ugly mug...

I followed the AT as it wound its way up the bluff.  After about a quarter of a mile the AT broke onto the ridge.  I turned left and got ready for my bushwhack to the summit.  On paper it looked to be a little over a mile.  It may be a mile but it didn't feel like it.  As you can see there were many blow downs.  Some I went around, some I went over, and some I crawled under.  What fun!  I climbed along the ridge line which had some great views of Mount LeConte.

 It took me every bit of 4 hours to finally reach the summit.  The wind was blowing pretty hard so I tried to find a spot to set up.  I found a small depression on the leeward side of the summit and I dug in.  I tried to scoop out as much snow as possible and made a simple wind block with my tarp.  I was very happy that I packed my sleeping bag.  After setting up I zipped up into my sleeping bag to keep warm.  I Had my Buddipole setup as a vertical and began calling CQ.  There was a lot of activity on my "new" bands and a lot of action on or near the freq's I had alerted to.  I moved up and down the bands but was having no luck.

I reset my Buddipole as a dipole and started to make some contacts.  I need to get some feedback from other Buddipole users on their vertical setups because I have not had much luck thus far.
Thanks to :
And a special thanks to N4EX for all the help in finding a clear spot on the band.  It gets tough to multitask in a pair of mitten hands. 
I would have stayed and worked the pileup if one existed but there didn't seem to be many takers.  I packed up and started back down the mountain.  On the way back I decided to follow the AT all the way to the Newfound Gap parking area.  In hindsight I should have just retraced my footsteps back.  The trail was wearing on me and I was getting tired.  On the way back the temp began to rise and the snow got wet.  I shed my outer layer and carried on. I finally made the parking lot.  In the morning it was empty and cold.  But it was now packed full of tourists and 50 degrees.  I got back to the Smart Car about 3:30 for a total on the mountain time of about 8 1/2 hours.

It was a very satisfying first activation of Mount Mingus.  Everything went to plan and I had a great day.  There are a few improvements I would like to make.

 First, I need to find a better way to record my contacts.  The steno pad kept getting wet and started to tear. 
Second, I need to study up on the Buddipole Vertical setups so that I can use them effectively.
Third, I would like to shed some weight from my setup.  This is an ongoing process with any backpacker and will come with time.

Well thanks for stopping in and feel free to leave a message or comment

73's and Keep Climbing!!!!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

1000 PAGE VIEWS!!!!!!


1000 PAGE VIEWS!!!!!



Oh yea I'm /AG BABY!  That's right I passed my General exam today!  I am very excited and cannot wait to exercise my General class privileges.

And not only did I pass the test but I aced it!

So look out the SOTA Ranger is coming to a band near you!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Roundtop Mountain, Bushwhack and Blood

What a fun summit today.  Roundtop Mountain W4T/SU-074 is a 3,077 ft mountain in the Great Smokey Mountains.  Overlooking Wears Valley the Roundtop Trail can be accessed by Lyon Springs Road.  During my planning I found that the trail did not lead over the summit but skirted the south side of the mountain.  I decided to park on one of the roads on the north side and bushwhack my way to the summit.

From my starting point I only had a little over half a mile to the summit.  But in that half mile I would gain about 1200 ft in elevation.  I was in for one steep climb.

It was a great time of year for this climb.  With very little underbrush it made the assent a bit easier.  I can just imagine the grabbing nastiness had I attempted this summit in the summer.  The weather was cool, around 30 degrees F with light snow flurries. 

I brought along a new set of equipment for today's climb.  Having never used a set of treking poles I found that they can save a lot of wear and tear on the body.  They also are an amazing asset for the pack laden hiker.  I found that many times during the day these poles kept me from rolling ass over apple cart down the hill.

 I hope the cheap set I purchased from Walmart will last for a while.  If not I will definitely will be in the market for a better set.

I took my time to the summit.  It was lightly snowing so everything was wet and slick.  Safety first!  Despite my cautiousness I still ended up scratching the heck out of my left hand.  I didn't notice it at first until I looked down and saw blood on the back of my hand.   So today's climb turned into a bloody bushwhack.

As this short clip shows it wasn't too bad.  Just had to Carry on to the Ranger Objective! 

I reached the summit and set up on the north side of the ridge to keep me out of the wind.  I set up my Buddipole antenna and my Elecraft KX3.  And since I actually had cell service I threw a self spot up on the SOTA website for 10m's.  I know, I know still 10m's.  If all goes well tomorrow I can /AG my call sign and get on some different bands. 

Well 10m's was pretty damn dead so I spent some time tuning around the ban in hopes of finding anyone. 
Despite the poor conditions I was lucky and made my 4 contacts.  Thanks to EA7JM, TO22C, V26B, and Larry W6UB.  Thanks for the final contact Larry!  I was very happy to make EA7JM in Spain.  my furthest contact to date!

As you can see things were slow so I was laid back and chilling, actually getting cold and damp.  I would have stayed longer if I was making contacts but oh well. 

I had hoped to make a video of this summit but there were some issues with my GOPRO and its Micro SD card.  A good portion of my video was corrupted.  Oh well perhaps next time.

All in all it was a great day.  My equipment performed very well, thank you Elecraft and Buddipole!  Oh and thanks to Zippy, the 8400 LifePo4 battery was on its 3rd summit and had just dropped below 13v.  Pretty damn awesome. 

Next week I hope to get in one or two more summits.  Hope to get contacts with some of the guys from the midwest on 20m's!

73's and Keep Climbing!