California QSO Party (CQP)
Alpine County Expedition - 2009


QSL N6A via:

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


The 2009 Crew (left to right)

Fred, K6DGW; Don, W6OA; Larry, W4UAT; John, WB6ETY; Bill, N6BM.

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Well, no shorts for me this year and it was a Murphy Year as well. We had a somewhat bigger crew this year, and we were joined by Bill, N6BM as well. Don again made it down from Winlock WA. Our automated weather station had been reporting highs in the high 60's/low 70's and lows in the 40's fairly consistently for several days, and it was about that on Wednesday noon when I arrived to be greeted by Don. Wednesday night it really cooled off and checking the history when I got home, that began a steady decline in the temperatures for the rest of the week. Timing is everything!

How Did It Go?

Larry and Bill arrived a short time later, and we set up camp. We've discovered that we all need an overnight to acclimate to the altitude, so that was about it for Wednesday. Thursday was to be antenna and equipment day, I set my aircraft altimeter to 8,400 ft and it became our barometer, and we crashed for the night.

Late on Thursday, with a falling barometer, we began to get some snow flurries, the snow continued throughout the night, and we had maybe 8 inches by Friday morning. This time, while it did clear up a bit on Saturday, it stayed cold enough and some of the snow stuck around as we were leaving Sun afternoon.

We again decided to forego 160m this year ... the only Q's we made in 2007 on 160 were with other NCCC stations and the rate was not high. Our 20/15/10 antenna was the venerable A3S on the crank-up mast [see photo below]. Larry had constructed an almost-full sized rotatable dipole for 40, and we hung an inverted-V from Larry's lattice tower for 80.

2008_OpPosition.jpg The rig again 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. At this point, everything was working just great, and we played radio some on Friday and Friday evening. Don also brought his PRO-II as a backup which turned out to be a very good move.

As with last year, we 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 during the contest. The 80m antenna performed very well ... and the autotuner really worked great. From our results, you can see that we never really got going on 75 phone, however what we did operate indicated that the antenna was performing just fine.


I did not get a picture of the TR-Log screen at the end of the contest this year, our excuses are below.

We were pleasantly surprised by pretty good propagation. Prior to the contest start and in the first hour, I was called by a number of strong EU. They don't give us multipliers, but we expected to get all the mults anyway and being called from EU gave us a warm feeling that the gear was working.

Our preliminary results are summarized in the table below:
Band/Mode Raw QSOs Points
80CW 289 861
80SSB 77 154
40CW 313 936
40SSB 8 16
20CW 373 1,119
20SSB 76 152
15CW 138 414
TOTAL: 1,274 3,652

10 meters never seemed to open, however 15 meters really did on Sunday AM. You will also note the absence of most of the SSB QSO's. We really don't know what happened but we just couldn't get any traction on any band for SSB. There was another fixed station on in Alpine County [N6NA] this year, and they may have handed out enough ALPI QSO's on SSB that folks weren't quite as hungry for us.

We worked 57 of the possible 58 multipliers, we know NT was on but never found him. That gives us an unaudited of 208,164 points, a little over 15,000 less than 2008. That's likely due to our poor performance on SSB, and losing a couple of hours at the end.


The snow did not deter the arrival of Murphy this year, which is really somewhat rare since most of the time everything works just fine. During a fairly heavy snowfall Saturday night, we began picking up snow static. It shows up on the PRO II spectrum scope as a bunch of very closely spaced spikes along the baseline. It never seemed to get really bad, but then the PRO II transmit output dropped to zero. We suspect the rig does not have a static bleed on the antenna, the charge built up, and eventually hosed one of more of the PIN diodes in the T/R switch.

Fortunately, Don had brought his Pro II, we subbed it in to the configuration and continued. Late Sunday morning, Don's radio lost all output just as Larry's had. Again, we had some snow static. We finally finished off the contest with John's little mobile rig. The weather was getting steadily worse, we still had the operating tent, equipment, and A3S to take down, so we made a strategic decision to quit about 1300 [2 hrs early] and get out of Dodge. It was probably a good idea, I got snowed on all up the Carson Valley.

Factoids for 2009

New Guy

Our new guy this year was Bill, N6BM, who came up with Larry. This was Bill's first trip with us, and his first real contest effort. I think it might have been one of his first times at remote camping as well, the weather was a bit of a surprise for him.


We had our usual conveniences including the warmed toilet seat, but no espresso machine. We did have a toaster sitting next to the microwave however. I was in our tent trailer, Don and Larry slept in their camper shells, and Bill and John were in dome tents. Don again brought the propane space heater for the operating tent. This year, I brought a coffee maker and used it instead of the percolator on the trailer stove.


2009_Visitors.jpg We had two visitors this year, neither one a ham. Aaron DeJen and Karen Suarez showed up on Saturday and stayed about an hour. I'm not sure how they found us, or why for that matter. The aspens are turning about CQP time, and they really were this year. Perhaps they came up to see that, started up the road to Leviathan Peak, saw our camp and drove on over.

It is somewhat surprising that we get any visitors at all. There are basically two USFS roads into our camp -- one leaves SR89 somewhat west of the summit and you can't see our camp from there. The other leaves SR89 about 100 ft east of the summit marker. You can't see our camp from there either, and in addition, the entrance to the road is almost invisible in some high brush. Unless you knew where we were, the only way to see the camp is to drive part way up the road to Leviathan Peak.


This was almost a no-wildlife year. We did see a few insects early on, but they disappeared. We may have seen a mouse run up one of the low trees. No birds, bears, deer, of other mammals however. We also heard no shots although there was a hunter encampment at the edge of an aspen stand about a mile SE of us.

The Flag

2009_Flag.jpg We again flew the flag 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. If you haven't seen the story, go read about the flag in the 2008 posting and then come back here. It's taken me awhile to get around to posting this page which had an upside. It isn't often that love and ham radio get mixed together but this is one of those times.


Now, continuing from last year: Ross came home to Southern California in early February, 2008 and Kristy moved out from Kentucky. The photo is at Miramar Marine Air Station when the unit got back. They settled into an apartment. In an email exchange a couple of days ago, Kristy announced that they will marry on Valentine's Day [next Sunday as I write this]. I will be down in So. Cal. the first part of March for the annual Cactus-Intertie meeting in early March and will have a chance to drive over and meet them for dinner.


What about next year? Well, as much as we all do enjoy our camp and the contest at 8,400 ft, we've come to the conclusion that we're probably pushing common sense being that remote at our ages. I do stop at the Fire Center at US395 and SR89 and tell them who we are and where we'll be, and I have their number in my phone, but we're still a good 45 mins to an hour from them, assuming they don't have any problem finding the road. I think we've decided that 2009 will be the last year we camp here.

We do intend to continue putting Alpine County on the air for CQP, we'll just do it from a little more densely populated area [which can be hard to find in that county]. Larry is looking into some spots that will give us good antenna performance, maybe at a lower altitude, and with some basic amenities. This is the only use I make of our tent trailer anymore so if it's not needed at a new location, we'll probably get rid of it.

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