California QSO Party (CQP)
Alpine County Expedition - 2003


QSL N6A via:

Don Mc Dougal, W6OA
744 Camelia Dr.
Livermore, CA 94550


The 2003 Crew (left to right)

Doug, KO6PW; Don, W6OA; Fred, K6DGW; Larry, NF6S; Jerry, K6III; and Arnold, KQ6DI. Richard, NU6T, had not yet arrived. Note also that one of us took advantage of the warm weather and wore shorts in the daytime (see 2002 and 2007 for another view of Monitor Pass weather).

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How it Went

Somewhere between "Really Great" and "Fantastic." The weather was better than anyone could ask for at 8,500'+ ... mid to upper 70's in the daytime (actually maybe in the low 80's in the sun), and just at freezing at night. All of Don and Larry's gear worked as planned, nothing failed, and we even managed an NCCC conflagration on 160 on Saturday night where we all worked everyone we knew. (See below for Don's last-minute topband antenna effort).

We ended up with seven operators, which worked out very well and permitted shorter shifts. Rich (NU6T) arrived just before things started, and he, Doug (KO6PW), and Arnold (KQ6DI) held down the phone side. Jerry (K6III), myself (K6DGW), Don (W6OA), and Larry (NF6S) held down the CW side, although it's hard to say which modes Larry and Don worked very late at night. The goal is to run up the score, after all. We had a propane-powered space heater this year for the operating tent, however it really was never needed.

The Results


As far as the results, we again outdid all previous scores. Propagation was in everyone's favor, and signals were strong. Our noise was not existent, except for the one time Larry left his cell phone charger on in his truck ... hard to believe that DC charging a DC battery would make any noise ... but I guess that's just technology for you.

Click on the photo at the left for a readable picture of the TR-Log screen 23 seconds after the end of the contest. We managed a total of 1818 unaudited QSOs for 262,656 unaudited points. Note the excessive brightness of Utah in the multiplier list ... Alas, we only managed 57 of the 58 possible multipliers, and we had that number by late Saturday evening. At Pacificon a couple of weekends later, I found three people who were very active in CQP from Utah and ... somehow, we missed them. All I can say is they also missed Alpine County!


(When in CQ mode, we keep the dupe QSO checking in TR-Log turned off and just go ahead and log dupes since it takes less time to work a dupe than to advise him (and maybe have to discuss it too). The difference between the "Raw QSO" and "Valid QSO" columns is removal of those dupes.

2003_Evening.jpg 2003_Doug.jpg

Band/Mode Raw QSOs Valid QSOs Points Mults
160CW 19 19 57 0
160SSB 17 17 34 0
80CW 98 98 294 0
80SSB 137 137 274 1
40CW 256 254 762 1
40SSB 22 22 44 0
20CW 278 269 807 13
20SSB 327 324 648 21
15CW 267 262 786 5
15SSB 267 262 786 5
10CW 110 110 330 0
10SSB 117 117 234 2
TOTALS 1818 1798 4608 57

Our unaudited final score was 262,656 points, up 33,224 over 2002. All of this is subject to the NCCC log checking, of course. Contrary to the last few years, Utah proved to be terminally elusive. We also had a slightly higher ratio of phone to CW QSOs, due primarily to more folks willing to work phone. Notwithstanding, we managed an increase in total score that exceeded last years increase of 31,146 over 2001, and 298 more QSOs.

Factoids for 2003


As with every other year, it seems to be impossible to get the entire crew into one picture since not all arrive early enough, and after the contest begins, someone is always operating. This year, the missing person was Rich, NU6T, a newbie to the team, and one who racked up a lot of QSO's for us on phone. The picture was taken a few minutes before the end of the contest on Sunday afternoon. Hopefully, Rich will find his way back to Monitor Pass next year.



Arnold came with a new Garmin GPS-5+ this year, and as usual, I learned several things about my (now) ancient GPS-3+, such as sunrise/sunset time display, average speed options, and a few others. The GPS-3+ was produced back when the DoD was still "tweaking" the satellites to prevent civilians from getting very accurate position data. This made the receiver think it was moving slowly, so they put a data filter into it to suppress the effect. The government gave up on the tweaking (officially called "Selective Availability") in 1999, and the GPS-5+ does not contain the filter. Consequently, it responds to movement much faster. In the picture, Larry, Arnold, and I are comparing the position accuracy of our receivers.


The Antenna Farm

This year's antenna farm was very similar to last year's, in that we used a shortened vertical on 80m, a full-size elevated groundplane on 40m, and the tribander for 20, 15, and 10. The lattice tower is Larry's "snap-together" military surplus erector set wonder and it supports the R8 which we used for spotting using a second rig. (Despite this, we never managed to spot Utah!) The tribander is on a crank-up mast.

These antennas work exceedingly well, despite being portable. They go up and come down very easily, and their electrical performance is great. I suppose if we had tall enough trees, we could try a 4-square or delta-loop, however it's hard to see that things could get much better


Topband Antenna

Generally speaking, 160 meters is non-productive in CQP for the time spent, and we usually forego operations there. This year, NCCC decided rather late in the game to gather on 160 late on Saturday evening as sort of a on-the-air club event. This, of course, required an unplanned antenna. Don, W6OA, stretched about 250 feet of wire and some rope from one of the low scrubby bushes behind the operating tent out to a similar bush about 350 feet away. The ground fell away some under the wire, and then back up to the far bush. The antenna was perhaps 12' above the ground in the center, about 6' at the ends, and ran roughly E-W.

Using a spare MFJ tuner, with the ground connected to a barbed wire fence (probably several miles long), he matched the end-fed wire to about 50 ohms with an antenna analyzer. The coax from that tuner ran into the operating tent, and connected to the second coax input on the main antenna tuner.

The antenna worked surprisingly well despite the lack of elevation and being horizontal. It so happened that I was operating when the appointed NCCC gathering time came, and sure enough, club members were there and workable. Best DX was Arizona. 160 is probably still not a productive band for CQP in general, but as a club event, it was fun.


The N6A Mascot

Wildlife is not prevalent around our campsite. It is hunting season, and we often hear shots from the hunters in the aspen groves, which explains why we hardly ever see deer. Even insects are fairly rare. This year,however, a somewhat scruffy grouse (we voted on the species and "grouse" won. It's our story and we're sticking to it) wandered into camp and stayed. She (we also voted on the gender of the grouse] is also in the picture of the crew at the top of this page. She was pretty much unafraid of us, and a fairly picky eater, too. Popcorn, cold cereal, and other things you'd think would be grouse-delicacies were not. Salad greens appeared to go over well, however. The bird probably got fairly lonely as we all left at 1630 on Sunday afternoon.


Necessary Things

Several years ago, we constructed a plywood "convenience" which we placed on the north side of the camp, looking down 4,000' into the Carson Valley. At night, we can see the lights of Minden and Gardnerville. Our campsite is apparently used each June by the same person, who takes very good care of the boxes, plywood, and the convenience we leave to the winter snow each year. This year, he had painted the seat cover.

It happened that Don and his wife have been remodeling their bathrooms, and he showed up with one of the old toilet seats, which we installed. This was a "good thing," as Martha would say since the weather takes a toll on the plywood, and we were beginning to acquire splinters in certain places if one didn't use great care embarking and debarking the convenience.

2003_SolarPanel.jpg - 10720 Bytes

Alternative Power

In case you haven't tumbled to the conclusion by this time, Arnold has most of the good toys. He brought a small solar panel and controller which charged his battery, ran a 12V refrigerated cooler, and charged Jerry's battery to run his K2. When it's clear, the sunlight is very bright at nearly 9K feet, and it was surprising at how efficient the panel was. Sitting on a small rack on the ground, we just occasionally adjusted it to lead the sun a bit.

Elecraft K2

Jerry's K2 was a great pastime. He kept it set up on the "dining room table" under the EZ-ups, and we all got a chance to fiddle with it. It is quite a rig, and the receiver probably will out-do most everything on the market. The menu system takes a little practice, but once you've seen it, it is quite intuitive (unlike my FT-847). Somehow, we never got a picture of it, but that's probably not a problem ... everyone knows what a K2 looks like.


This is not Moses pointing to the Promised Land, it's Arnold just beyond the "convenience" pointing into the Carson Valley. All told, it was yet again another great CQP! We're getting much better with the comfort food. We had a microwave this time so we had popcorn (us old guys sort of remember you could make popcorn over a campfire, but it was always burned). Great score ... that's what great operators do, and we're very close to taking first place in NCCC County Expeditions.

Thanks to all who made this a great time ... ESPECIALLY all those who gave us QSO's and multipliers. If you're outside California, look for us in your State QSO Party.


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