SOTA 5B/CY-014: Sella

This six-point peak is near the town of Omodos, known for its wine production, right along the Limassol-Paphos border. It is about an hour and a half drive from Nicosia whether you choose to go through the mountains or along the coast. However, although my GPS was able to plot a route right next to the peak, it took me two visits to reach the peak. Why? It looks like you can just pull over and then cut across a field, right? No. The dark line running along the edge of that field is the shadow cast by sheer stone cliffs a couple hundred meters high.

Google wasn’t wrong… it just wasn’t helpful.
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Le Concours 2020 de Fictions Interactives

I am emerging briefly from my IF cave to post some quick reviews of games from this year’s Francophone IF competition. The competition is open for judging through 1 March for anyone who is willing to rate at least three games using a web-based form.

This year broke a record: eight games were submitted, all of them web-based, with play times from about fifteen minutes to a couple hours. Once again, I’m reviewing them in English so I can get the reviews out quickly and because I think it will reach a wider audience and perhaps lure some folks to try out the games, even if it is with dictionary in hand.

I intentionally played the games out of order, and am now reviewing them in that same order.

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Some antennas and a contest

This is a state-of-the-shack update. I’ve finally got a few temporary antennas up and am beginning to make contacts from the home station including a tiny bit of contesting.

The first antenna I tried from home was the Buddipole. Before taking it into the field for SOTA operations, I practiced with it one afternoon on the roof. It happened to be the weekend of the Ukranian DX contest, so I did a quick spin through 20m and worked about five stations one after the other with my FT817. I was happy to make any contacts, particularly on a crowded band. No doubt some of the credit goes to the Ukranian operators and their ability to pick out weak signals.

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SOTA W2/NJ-010: Cushetank Mountain

I intentionally activated Cushetank Mountain in the late Spring: the Round Valley Recreation Area charges no admission before Memorial Day, it was not too hot, and most importantly, the number of bugs in the air was tolerable.

The set up is kind of odd: you need to enter the Round Valley Recreation Area off Stanton Lebanon Road, park in the South Parking Lot, and then follow a trail that wraps around the western and southern edges of the Round Valley Reservoir. The trail goes through a dam facility, a summer camp, and past a few houses before it turns towards a campground and the summit.

From GoogleMaps: The parking area (green marker) at upper left, and the summit (red marker at bottom).
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SOTA W4V/SH-004: Hazeltop

Hazeltop is another summit on the “not too hard” list within Shenandoah National Park. If you park at the Milam Gap parking lot (38.4784N, 78.4517W), it’s about a 3.3 km hike along the Mill Prong trail to the summit, with a net vertical rise of about 170m. There are some flat stretches to this trail, but also some hilly bits.

From the parking lot, walk east and then follow the turn southward towards the peak.
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SOTA W4V/SH-027: Dickey Hill

This was the first of a series of summits I am hoping to activate within Shenandoah National Park, and proved to be very straightforward. The only twist was avoiding operating next to the government installation at the end of a road leading to the summit. Instead, I operated just a little to the side, but still on the summit.

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VAQP 2019

Last weekend was one of the highlights of my ham radio experience even though I spent most of it shivering and hunched over a pair of paddles on a frigid mountaintop.

Mike, KA4CDN, and I decided to mount an expedition with the goal of activating rare counties for the 2019 Virginia QSO Party. We poured over spreadsheets of prior year activity and looked for places where we might camp on the intersection of two or more counties. We came up with a few possibilities, but ultimately decided to check out Rocky Mountain, which lies at the intersection of Nelson, Rockbridge, and Amherst counties. Additionally, it is centrally located in Virginia, which we thought would give us the best chance of picking up the many multipliers (95 counties and 38 independent cities) in the state.

The Bottom Line

To cut to the chase, despite poor propagation, we did better than we thought we would: more than 850 QSOs and broad coverage of multipliers throughout both Virginia and North America. Best of all, we worked a bunch of people we knew including at least ten members of our home club, the Vienna Wireless Society.

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Operating FT8 on the Elecraft K3

Last night on 30m

Last week, I put up a new HF antenna and this week, I set the station up to operate in FT8 mode. Below, I describe a minimalist implementation using an Elecraft K3, a computer and two audio patch cords. I am focusing only on items specific to the radio and not found in the WSJT-X documentation.

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SOTA W3/SV-041: Pigeon Hills North

After Fairview Mountain and Emmaville Mountain North, we continued roughly along Interstate 70 towards Pigeon Hills North. This area is a mixture of private houses and farms, and from various postings, I got the sense that the folks here value their privacy and aren’t all that warm when it comes to visitors. Continue reading “SOTA W3/SV-041: Pigeon Hills North”