Vollmer Peak has become my favorite local high spot from which to operate. Now it’s not quite Pike’s Peak, the peak in the eastern Rockies from which famous QRP’er Steve WG0AT operates. Pike’s Peak is approximately 14,000 feet above sea level. Vollmer Peak is a more modest 1900 feet above sea level. However, it is close to my house, which makes it very attractive. I can cycle there in a couple of hours (a trip which includes plenty of walking once I get to the steep parts.)
Today was the North American QRP CW Club Sprint, so I thought I’d take part from Vollmer Peak in order to try out my new homebrew portable dipole. First of all, let’s backtrack to my desk about a week ago:
If you work me when I’m at home, this is where I’m sitting. It’s not usually this messy though. It only looks like this when I’m making something, and that particular day, I was making a dipole for portable ops. I wanted to try using a pre-tuned antenna that was light and didn’t require me to cart along an ATU, so this is what I made. The center of the dipole was made from a Nalgene bottle. I originally bought it from REI to put shampoo in for a short trip, but now it serves as a cheap way for me to connect coax with a BNC on the end to my dipole:
The end insulators cost me a fortune. They were made from plastic rings that I found stacked on top of the CD-R’s in a spindle of 50. There were several on top of the CD-R’s:
I wanted the dipole to operate on 40, 30, 20, 17 and 10 meters, so each leg of the dipole had jumpers like these placed at the appropriate positions:
Bingo ! A portable antenna for 40, 30, 20 and 10 that cost me nothing up to this point, as I already had all the parts. I wanted about 50 feet of coax to feed it, so I ordered a 50 foot length of stranded RG-58A/U with a BNC at each end from Buddipole Antennas. Their price was a very reasonable $14, so I went for it.
Now do I hear someone grumbling that RG58 type cable is awful and lossy, and what the jiminy am I doing using it? I mention this because I’ve heard comments along these lines before from hams. The highest frequency I’m going to use this length of cable at is 28.5MHz and at that frequency I measured the loss of the 50 foot length to be 1dB. At 7MHz, which is the frequency I’ll be operating on most of the time with this antenna, the loss as measured was just 0.2dB. Both these figures are perfectly acceptable and are typical for a cable of this type. This is a light and flexible cable, which makes it perfect for carrying in the backpack for portable ops. Just don’t use it to feed your eme array.
Here was the radio gear before I stuffed it in the backpack:
From left to right: Many-in-one type of tool containing pliers, screwdrivers, pen-knives etc all in one handy tool, portable dipole with 50 feet of coax underneath it, notebook and pen for logging QSO’s, FT-817 encased in very useful protective cover from the now defunct Mountain-Ops Communications (what happened to them?), KK1 Straight Key, spare set of AA batteries for the radio, and a reel of 40lb test line with 3 lead sinkers for throwing the line in trees (fun!) I also packed a set of earbuds but forgot to include them in this picture.
Non-radio items also stuffed in the backpack: sunblock, map, water bottles, trailmix, energy bars, and a compact digital camera.
I stopped for lunch at a taqueria in Berkeley at the base of the hill, then cycled/walked most of the way up before taking a brief break. All the radio gear as well as water, maps and food are in the backpack, and it’s only half-full. Brilliant!
The operating position on Vollmer Peak:
So how did I do in the Sprint? *Clears throat loudly* I only made 4 QSO’s due, in part, to my inexperience as a CW contest operator, and also due to the uncomfortable operating position, which led me to take a lot of standing breaks in order to get the blood flowing again. However, I enjoyed it, and it was a great excuse to get out for the day.
Cycling back down the hill, I heard 2 owls hooting from opposite sides of the road, and saw a wild rabbit scooting into the hedgerow. I know – just little things, but combined with the experience of looking down on a setting sun shining on the tops of the clouds, it was all very beautiful. Here’s a view of the setting sun from Grizzly Peak (which is very close by) taken a week earlier:
Shortly after this picture was taken, the moon came out and lit up the tops of the clouds – awesome!
Stations worked in the NAQCC Sprint were W6GY, KA7SPS, WY7N and NG7Z. I then came home and had a brief but very enjoyable QSO with W7CNL in Boise, who was also running 5 watts. All on 40m.
CW is fun.
Vollmer Peak is home to several towers and many antennas. Only a radio amateur would find antennas against a setting sun attractive: