QSL N6A via:
Charles ("Larry") Word, W4UAT
The 2005 Crew (left to right)
Rich, NU6T; Ian, W6TCP; Larry, W4UAT; and Fred, K6DGW.
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How it Went
After the 2004 debacle, practically anything positive would be "great," but in truth, it did go very well. I brought my K2/100 (which had acquired the KPA100 amplifier, KAT100 autotuner, and KSB2 SSB adapter by October), my SB220, a portable all-band antenna, and a 2KVA generator for "Plan B." Rich, NU6T, also brought a rig, and as always happens when you are ready for it, disaster did not strike, and we operated with the primary rig provided by Larry, W4UAT.
Larry, Ian, and I arrived midday on Wednesday, and the weather was really mild. We got the camp set up, and one antenna up. Rich arrived on Thursday, and we got the remainder of the antennas up, leaving us Friday to goof around and play radio with my K2 and Ian's and my KX1's.
We had planned on six operators -- the above crew plus Arnold, KQ6DI, and Jeffrey, N6QYS. Not long before CQP, Jeffrey found out he was going to become a father (he and his wife Sandy's first) and the need to announce all of that to the grandparents-to-be sort of overshadowed CQP and Amateur Radio. Arnold had an auto accident as he was heading up to the site and was thus stalled from making it. (Arnold was OK, his car decidedly was not). So, that left us with four operators which is about 2 short of "OK" and maybe 4 short of "Ideal." Nevertheless, Larry and I took the CW shifts and Rich and Ian handled phone. We did make one concession to the less than ideal manning and shut down for a few hours in the early morning, starting up again at sunrise. This gave everyone enough sleep, and the sacrifice in score was probably minimal as it gets pretty slow around 0200 local.
We did pretty well considering that, due to the 2004 debacle, our last score from the mountain was in 2003 when the sun was considerably more spotty. This year, we missed Hawaii as a multiplier. We probably lost a handful of QSO's by shutting down for several hours in the early AM, however typically, rates during that time run in the single digits, so it probably did not affect us that much.
Click on the photo at the left for a readable picture of the TR-Log screen 1:06 after the end of the contest. We managed a total of 1152 unaudited QSOs (down about 650 QSO's from 2003) for 165,984 unaudited points (which is 96,672 points off our 2003 performance). The ratio of SSB to CW QSO's was up a little from past years, attesting to the "warrior attitude" of Rich and Ian on that mode. Unfortunately, in CQP, CW Q's are worth 3 points while SSB Q's are worth 2, so if I had worked a little harder to keep the CW/SSB ratio more optimum, we'd have posted a better score.
(When in CQ mode which is nearly all the time, 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). Thus, the Raw QSO number may be reduced slightly when dupes are removed.
Clearly, 10m, which in 2003 accounted for a signifcant fraction of our score, was a bust this year. With 57 multipliers, our unaudited score was 165,984.
Factoids for 2005
Ian, W6TCP, was our new guy this year. Ian is from the UK, and was impressive on SSB. He was also impressive as a cook. The old cook tent had fallen into shreds, so this year we tried it outside under the EZ-ups. Not terribly great ... see below. Among other things, Ian is a "real" photographer (unlike me), and most of the pictures on this page are his.
The Antenna Farm
Antennas were pretty much as 2003, except that Larry brought a Cobra for the low bands. It performed pretty good, and we had the apex up about 50 feet or so on a push-up sort of mast. We never really used the R8 antenna for spotting, however it did get some use with the K2 and KX1's
The N6A Mascot
We saw no wildlife to speak of during our stay on the mountain. This is not at all strange since it is above the timberline and very dry. We're not sure where the "N6A Grouse" went but she didn't come back this year. A couple of pesky flies and one persistent yellow jacket was about it. That's pretty much what we always encounter.
The weather began about as good as it can get. Wednesday was even warm in the sun, and that night did not fall below freezing. In fact, I had to turn off the electric blanket it got so warm. Thursday AM was equally nice, and we had the antennas up. By mid-afternoon, a real breeze had come up which turned into nearly gale force winds by midnight. Friday and Saturday were equally windy, making cooking under just the EZ-ups somewhat problematical, and we were beginning to wonder about getting the antennas down safely on Sunday in such weather.
Fortunately, on Sunday AM, the winds seemed to be abating some, and had pretty much died by noon. We followed our usual plan and began taking down the low band stuff and packing all of the camping gear so that by end-of-contest at 1500 PDT, all that was left was the tri-band A3 and tower, the rig and tent, and the generator. It was getting steadily colder by this time and by the time we were ready to leave (~1630 PDT) and took the crew photo at the top of this page, the temp was in the low 40's and dropping, I'd traded my shorts for long pants and a sweatshirt, and it was clouding up quickly. Checking the automated weather station the following day, it had recorded a low of 22 and 10 inches of snow on Sun Night. Timing is everything!
This year, we had two ham visitors. Marc, W6SQL, came up with his foster son Joe, to see how we were doing. It's a long drive, and Joe was really glad to exit the car and run around among the sagebrush and rocks. It would be pretty hard for a kid to get lost in this terrain ... it's a bit bleak, you can see for a long way, and there's no where to hide, so he ran off his stored-up energy ... probably a good deal for Marc on the way home. Joe might be a little young to appreciate the magnitude of technology and innovation we put on this mountain as he showed little interest in the wireless part of the expedition.
Incidentally, Marc's call is prophetic ... he is an SQL guru, has helped me a couple of times with my feeble attempts at database-things, and is the webmaster for the Sierra Foothills Amateur Radio Club. It is cool for us to get a few visitors since we're a long way (horizontally and vertically) from civilization, and it's great to have new folks see what contest expeditions are like.
Judd, WA6HBV and his wife also came up to check out the expedition, and he may be available for as a back-up operator for next year. Turns out, I know Judd as a member of the No. Calif. Cactus Radio Assn. Small world, no? We also had a number of visitors on quads and motorcycles, some bounding through our camp fairly fast. Fortunately, the ground was just damp enough to kill the usual dust, and we did get them to slow down a bit. Apparently, there was some sort of off-road convention or race going on, which accounts for the proliferation of them.
This year, we had a flag. I fly our flag each day, partly to remember my guys and comrades who didn't get to come home. Andrea and I send packages and mail to our troops ... it's paying-it-forward for all those who sent me and my troops packages and mail, and who I never thanked. Our Marine unit sent us a flag that they had flown over their camp, and I took it along and we had it on one of our towers.
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 NCCC in your State QSO Party. If you missed us for Alpine County, there's always next year, and I'm really going to work at the CW part of that.
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