California QSO Party (CQP)
Alpine County Expedition - 2008


QSL N6A via:

Charles ("Larry") Word, W4UAT
2184 Bluebell Dr.
Livermore, CA 94550


The 2008 Crew (left to right)

Fred, K6DGW; Larry, W4UAT; Don, W6OA.

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2008_Larry+Arnold.jpg As often happens, we did not manage to get a complete crew photo because not everyone was there at the same time. In addition to the three of us above, we had two others. Arnold, KQ6DI [on the right] came up on Thursday and helped us erect the 80m antenna. Unfortunately, he was still recovering from a cold, the weather forecast was dismal and growing worse by the hour [see below], and he finally opted to pack up and go home Friday afternoon, leaving just the three of us. Arnold is one of our crack phone operators so losing him was a little bit of a set-back.

Jim, KF6VU, came up on Saturday AM just before the start of the contest at 0900 PDT. He operated phone for us but had to leave for home around 1030 PDT on Sunday. I think Jim may have underestimated the weather potential at Monitor Pass because he spent the night dozing in a chair in the operating tent next to Don's propane heater. [I'll post a photo of Jim here as soon as I get it from Larry or Don].

How Did It Go?

The answer to this question depends on what part you are talking about. The weather in the early part of the week was reported by the automated station to be about perfect -- highs in the high 60's/low 70's, lows in the upper 40's, and light winds. Unfortunately, the NWS forecast wasn't quite so good. A small storm was working its way down from the Gulf of Alaska and they were forecasting increasing winds, rain/snow on Friday night and Saturday, and falling temperatures.

Wednesday was pretty good. A bit on the windy side with temperatures in the mid 60's in the sun, but as usual, the temperatures drop fast once the sun sinks behind the low hill to our west. We went to bed with the NWS VHF radio telling us to expect moderate rain, snow levels around 7,500' [that would be 1,000' below us], and fairly high winds. We woke up on Thursday to a cold morning [but above freezing], a lot of wind, and a forecast for "ridge gusts to 100 mph" [our camp is on a gentle ridge], although the wind didn't get even remotely close to that. It blew all Thursday night and Friday, and then sometime Friday night, the wind abated, it sprinkled a little -- just enough to dampen the ground -- and Saturday was cool, a lot of clouds blowing by, light winds, and clearing in the west.

Saturday night it cleared off, the temperature fell into the low 20's, and when I went to the radio tent at 0100 Sunday to relieve Don, the number of visible stars clearly exceeded the national debt and I could see the ground without my flashlight just by the light of the Milky Way. It is truly an undescribable experience. Sunday warmed up a lot as you can see by the crew photo at the top [I'd have been in shorts except we took the photo right after the contest ended and I didn't want to take the time to change]. Weather for N6A is indeed a gamble.

We decided to forego 160m this year ... the only Q's we made last year on 160 were with other NCCC stations and the rate was not high. This was probably a wiser move than originally anticipated because it ended up with just Don, Larry, and myself to take down the camp after the contest. Our 20/15/10 antenna was the venerable A3S on the crank-up mast [see photo below]. Don again brough his full-size 40m groundplane, and for 80/75, Larry brought a dipole which we installed as an inverted-V with the apex at 50 feet.

2008_OpPosition.jpg The rig this year comprised Larry's Icom PRO-II and his AL800 amplifier which we ran between 700 and 1,000 watts. Don brought his MFJ autotuner and his antenna switch driven by the band output from TR-Log. Everything worked just fine and band changes were very easy and fast.

We had extended the 80m Inv-V down to about 3550 KHz hoping that the MFJ autotuner would get us a good match at 75m. It turned out that it did and we didn't need to do any antenna adjustments. Incidentally, the 80m antenna performed very well ... better than one might have expected with the apex less than a half-wave high. This may be due to the fact that our electrical ground is likely quite a ways down from the surface. The terrain is very dry and pretty much solid granite covered by dry granite dust and rocks. The electrical height of our antenna was probably much higher than the 50 feet of the mast.



Despite not having 15 and 10, we bested our performance over last year. This time, I took the TR-Log photo right at the end of the contest on a tripod with the timer, and you can actually read the screen. The first thing we want everyone to notice is that there are NO highlighted multipliers ... we managed a clean sweep of all 58 this time! NT, the last holdout fell when Don worked VY1MB in the last half hour of the contest. He gave us a number in the 50's, so inside-California sweeps may be a bit rare this year.

Our preliminary results are summarized in the table below:
Band/Mode Raw QSOs Points
160CW 0 0
160SSB 0 0
80CW 234 702
80SSB 179 358
40CW 367 1,101
40SSB 77 154
20CW 405 1,215
20SSB 220 440
15CW 3 9
15SSB 2 4
10CW 0 0
10SSB 0 0
TOTAL: 1,388 3,854

Factoids for 2008

New Guy

Our new guy this year was Jim, KF6VU, from the Livermore club. He's not really new, having been on one or two of these in the late 90's, but since it's been quite awhile, we're going to give him "new guy" status. Jim was a real asset for us on phone since we didn't have Arnold.


We again planned to rebuild our latrine this year, however the guy who was to bring the plywood [that would be me] brought two sheets of the wrong thickness. We used one under the operating position so that the chairs would sit solid and not punch holes in the tent floor. We left that one at the camp ... others use the campsite during the summer, but our experience is that they may use what we leave, but they leave it too. 2008_Espresso.jpg I brought the other one home. We did cut about 6" off the bottom of our existing convenience so everyone's feet can touch the ground while sitting which really cuts down on splinters in the "down there" places. We also replaced the screws holding it together, so it's probably good for several more years if we don't get around to making a new one.

We'd like everyone to think of us freezing, getting blown off the mountain, and really living in hardship conditions to put Alpine County on the air for CQP, and some of that is true, it does get cold, rain, snow, hail, and blow a lot. However, we also have a few other conveniences. Arnold brought his microwave for the time he was there which meant popcorn and other nuked delicacies, and Jim brought an espresso machine and a bunch of fixings for the coffee. Sort of strange to be operating 20CW in a tent at 8,500 feet with a propane heater behind me while sipping a flavored double espresso latte'. Eat your heart out, Starbucks!


2008_WA8SME.jpg As is often the case, we had two visitors this year ... Mark, WA8SME, and his wife came up looking for us. They live in Coleville, south on US395 a short distance, and heard us on the WW7E repeater on Leviathian Peak. Driving up the road to the top, they saw our camp and eventually figured out how to get to us. Mark is a school principal in Coleville, and is also an ARRL employee. He left his QSL card which was somewhat unique in that it had Braille embossed on it. Unfortunately, I didn't notice this until they had already departed ... I would have liked to know if he included QSO information when he sent them out.

Ham-oriented visitors are always a neat event for us. We are pretty remote and having someone come by to see us and chat for awhile is sort of a high point in the day.


2000_Bear.jpg Other than a couple of pesky yellow jackets, and a bird or two, we yet again saw no wildlife. The aspens were not very far along this year, and we didn't see any deer hunters in the groves below us, nor did we hear any gunfire. In 2005, Ian, W6TCP, was with us and was somewhat concerned about being eaten by a bear. After the usual harassment we gave him over this, we assured him that bears didn't frequent this area [not much food], and it was late enough that they were heading for their winter sleep. This didn't totally reassure him.

This year, Don searched through his N6A photo collection, and found this one from the 2000 operation. It is a bear print from not far down the road that runs through our camp. You can see the toes and the seam that forms the big guy's heel. So ... we lied to Ian. Larry brings a rifle and took Ian out to shoot it. It appears that he was really enthralled with this and now has another hobby besides ham radio. Somehow, I think a firearms hobby might be as expensive as radio.

The Flag

2008_Flag.jpg We again flew the flag that was a gift to Andrea and me from Marine Ross, now a Gunnery Sergeant. We flew it to honor his and his Marines' service and that of Soldier James, another of our adopted troops. This year, it had a little different meaning.

We had originally picked Ross off of the website pretty much at random. He was then a SSgt and in Iraq at Al Taqqadum. Eventually, he came home. Unknown to us, a woman in KY had also picked him, pretty much at random, and was sending packages to him for his Marines. We were unknown to her as well. It turns out they struck up a friendship that persisted and grew after he came home. Earlier this year, I got an email from her [which took a little courage!]. It seems he had just deployed again, she was looking for a Marine magazine or web article featuring him and his men, so she Googled his name. The second hit was our 2006 web page where she read about the flag he had sent to us and found my email address. She gave us his new address in Iraq [he has since moved to Afghanistan], and we're back in the package drill to our Marine. I Googled my name and the full name of a couple of our adopted troops and it was a little scary ... lots of stuff out there in cyberspace. Consequently, we've removed last names from this site.

I really had a great time again! I really like this crew, I enjoy the trip regardless of the weather, and I truly do love the contest. We are all getting a little older, Don said this may be his last one, after all, he does live in Winlock WA. I think I'm good for a few more. My thanks to the rest of my crew, I look forward to this week every year, and thanks to everyone for the QSO's and mults. This year, we put all the multipliers out on the screen!

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