Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Koko Head (KH6/OH-029) SOTA Activation

A look at Koko Head from the start of the trail.

Just an Easy Hike (YouTube Edition)

I had an awesome Summits On The Air (SOTA) activation today. Namely because I had my first opportunity to bring my entire family (wife and three young boys) along for a hike. Given the fact that I have a two-year-old in the mix, the logical option to suit our entire family was to head up Koko Head; the lowest of the 29 summits on O'ahu. Even better is that it is paved the entire way up, which was perfect for pushing our jogging stroller up. 

Getting on the Trail

Easy paved hiking.
We parked at Koko Head Park at around 09:45 and readied the troops by lathering them up with sunblock. This park is also the most common place to park and climb Koko Crater (KH6/OH-021). From the parking lot we walked up and right on an access road to cross Hwy 72. The ever-present sound of gunfire was in the air as the Koko Head Shooting Complex is on the other side of the ridge line. The trail for Koko Head is just to the right of the Hanauma Bay Road entrance. This trail is paved because the FAA has a navigational aid (VOR) at the summit and they use this for access to this and other commercial cell and microwave towers along the rather plateau-shape of this summit. There is a gate at the beginning of the trail so you have to hoof-it. We saw several other hikers and families along the way, out enjoying the day as we were. It is an easy hike but was still steep enough, thirty percent grade perhaps in places, to get the heart rate going.

On the Summit 

Once we were near the top we passed the FAA's VOR and I noticed the no trespassing signs immediately around the facility. Just follow along the road (staying left near the top) to reach the actual summit and to steer clear. As I mentioned above, the top is really flat so identifying the true summit (21.2631, -157.7042) with a GPS or with the SOTA map satellite view is the best route. I located a stand of head-high bushes that suited well to place my antenna mast in for support. This day was not too breezy fortunately. A few bungee cords and we were on the air within ten minutes. Fifteen minutes after that I had fourteen contacts from across the continental United States. With the sound of lightning crashes in my headphones and the boys itching to get lunch, we decided to head back down. As I peered off toward Koko Crater I made future plans to active both of these Koko peaks in one day.
73 and safe hiking,

A great view of Koko Crater (left) and Hanauma Bay (snorkelers' paradise)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Pu'u Heleakala (KH6/OH-018) SOTA Activation

A Hike of Firsts

This hike up Heleakala (Pu'u Heleakala, KH6/OH-018) marked a few firsts for me. First; and least impressive, it was my first Summits On The Air (SOTA) activation in the Waianae Range of west O'ahu. Second, it was the first time making a power supply repair on a summit; my positive lead came loose from a crimp connector and luckily I had a multi-tool and electrical tape. Third, and oddest, it was the first time I set up my antenna using the support of a cactus.

The Hike

Heleakala was a fun hike, partly due to the camaraderie of taking along a couple non-hams with me up to experience SOTA. All three in our expedition were active duty Air Force, so this Veteran's Day hike was appropriately manned. The route we took started in the town of Nanakuli. We parked at the Sac-n-Save grocery and walked .3 mile up Lualualei Naval Rd, and took a right on a trail across the street from the refuse collection station. It was another .3 mile to the base of the ridge. There is an old military pillbox as a reference point to the start of the trail. You can also walk through the neighborhood, but we chose to bypass this as it was about the same distance. The route is straightforward: follow the ridge up to the summit. My only caution is to warn that the grass on the trail in some spots makes it difficult to see if there is good footing or if there might be a rock to trip you up. (**Hikers can also ascend from another ridge to the northwest of the summit, further up Lualualei Naval Rd.)

The mountains on the day we hiked were in a sea of green. Fresh grass was growing throughout the hills and valleys in this area from the recent rains. This area (leeward side of O'ahu) is often in need of rain and has a tan hue from the dry grass. The winds on the backside of passing weather front made it quite blustery as we hiked up on this day. We left the truck at 0700 and made my first CQ call at 0900 (local time). This was a moderate hike with a 576 meter ascent. I would definitely recommend this hike to anyone visiting O'ahu and plans to bring their radio. It is a refreshing change from the busy peaks of Diamond Head and Koko Crater. We did not see any other hikers on the trail during the four-hour round trip. The funniest part of the hike occurred as we left the trail on our way back to the truck. We came down the ridge which terminates in at the back of an apartment complex. On our way through the neighborhood, a barefoot little boy, about 7 years old, who was curious as to what we were up to, approached us on the street and asked, "Hey, what are you guys doing?" To which we replied, "Oh, we just climbed that mountain," and pointed over our shoulders to this great peak in his backyard. To which he replied, "Why?" I responded, "Why not."

Thanks to the nine SOTA followers who helped me activate this summit for its first time. The west coast SOTA followers and stretching from Alberta, Arkansas, and to Australia. Until next time, 73 & safe hiking!

KH6/OH-018, Heleakala
KH7AL descending Heleakala (in background)
My cactus antenna support system.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Diamond Head (KH6/OH-025) SOTA Activation

    I had debated about going up Diamond Head (DH); Waikiki's signature landmark, ever since we started Summits On The Air (SOTA) for Hawaii on 1 Sept 2013. I finally had the opportunity on the 13 Oct when fellow SOTA travelers K5XY (Alex) and K7NIT (Rachael) contacted me about their separate vacation plans to O'ahu. We made plans to make S2S contacts between three summits that Sunday at noon. Alex climbed up KH6/OH-21, Rachel ascended KH6/OH-028 (her second summit of the day), and I headed up KH6/OH-025 (Diamond Head) with my middle son Coen, who was 5 1/2 years old.
Coen patiently drawing as I did my Ham thing.
  Now I said that I had debated DH a moment ago. Why not ascend such a quintessential landmark in the name of SOTA? Namely...tourists. DH has to be the busiest trail on O'ahu. They (tourists) trek to DH like some sort of bizarre pilgrimage. Or rather, moths to the flame. I wonder if some are just dropped off at the trail head accidentally by their tour buses. I say accidentally because there are all types of people on the trail, from all walks (hikes?) of life. Young, old, dangerously out of shape, to college students running up and down. It is a cultural kaleidoscope of adventurers, accented by a myriad of languages heard along the trail. Diversity also noted by the choice of footwear not suitable for this hike. At the summit, one feels akin to the likes of sardines as we all aspire to admire Waikiki from the lookout's small footprint.
Honolulu from Diamond Head Summit. KH7AL photo.
    Due to the sheer number of people at the summit, I thought it prudent to activate HF from lower down, but still within, the activation zone. If I had not brought my son along, I would have likely disregarded the signage and jumped the railing at the summit for the better operating location just to the north. There is a metal tri-pod structure mounted to the top of the concrete lookout; just perfect for affixing an antenna to. You can just see the structure on the right of the above picture.

    I decided to setup out of the main pathway of hikers on one of the stairway landing lookouts. I was chuckling to myself as I could sense the urge of the on-lookers wanting ask, "What are you doing?" In the spirit of SOTA I obliged several folks who mustered up the courage to ask and I gave them the official story. Most of them said something like, "Oh, wow," but the look on most of their faces was more to the effect of, "Ham radio...Why not use a phone or the internet?"

    I completed the successful hike by helping another, unknown hiker when I found their ATM card lying on the ground at the trail head. I called the bank, had them call the owner; who was still on the way up, and arranged to have them pick up their card with the park's parking attendants. His description relayed to my by the bank attendant, "Blue Hawaiian shirt, white slacks, and blue Spider-man shoes." I wish I were making this up. With our good deed done, Coen and I followed that with a stop at a nearby Zippy's for lunch and a strawberry milkshake. Mission accomplished. Next up, west O'ahu summits.

Thanks to the following people that helped me scratch out another activation:
NS7P     21:16Z 14 MHZ
W7RV   21:17Z 14 MHZ
W7CNL 21:40Z 18 MHz
K5XY    21:50Z 144 MHz (S2S)
KH6RT  22:05Z 144 MHz
K7NIT   22:09Z 144 MHz (S2S)

73 and safe hiking,

Monday, September 23, 2013

SOTA Activation of KH6/OH-013; Lanipo (Mau'umae Trail)

Pictures from my hike are available at: Lanipo Picts.

  Since Hawai'i SOTA kicked-off 1 Sept 2013, I have tried to figure out my next peak to activate. I settled on OH-013, Pu'ulanipo (commonly referred to as just Lanipo). Warning: This is not a summit for beginners. I was able to get some idea of this hike from various blogs from local hikers and from Stuart Ball Jr's guide book (pg 26). You can also search for Mau'umae Trial. The consensus that this hike is a "roller coaster" was right on the mark. Pack plenty of water. I lost about 8 pounds (sweat) on this hike and ran out of water on the way down. Although I told my wife exactly where I was going and when I would return, I broke a cardinal rule of hiking by going alone. Nevertheless, I had a good time and made it home in one piece.

  I parked on Maunalani Circle at 5:40 am with the ill-conceived notion that I could knock this hike out and be home by lunch. Did I mention this hike is 7+ miles round trip and over 2000 feet elevation gain? When I started it was still dark outside except for the light from the waning moon present in the clear sky. Accessing the right-of-way to the trail head, I had to break out my cell phone to use it's light to keep me from tripping over the roots between the two chain-link fences.

  Upon reaching the first vantage point of the hike I could see the eastern sky beginning to lighten. As I carefully made the first significant descent I could hear the chickens announcing the day's beginning down on my left in the Palolo Valley neighborhood. Ascending, and descending became the name of the game. Highlights of the hike were the many great vistas of Honolulu to include Diamond Head. There were also many flowers along the way which allowed me to stop occasionally and enjoy the view. I especially liked the sound of the wind as I passed through the stands of Ironwood and pine trees. As I approached the summit I saw the impressive Kaau Crater to the west with its waterfall leading down to the valley below. It was at this point that I realized this was the first time on O'ahu that I felt somewhat isolated. I had not seen another hiker on the trail. Aside from the occasional drone from a passing aircraft, all I could hear was the wind, birds, and insects.

  After taking in the view of Kaneohe at the summit of the Mau'umae Trail, take a right to head for Lanipo (do not go straight or your hiking days are over). The trail from here to the summit (about .2 miles) is a hair-raising endeavor over two smaller peaks up the saddle. To the left of this trail is a precipice of life-ending proportions; at least a 200-250 foot near straight drop off. The low, heavy vegetation coupled with slippery footing requires acute attention to what you are doing. Take your time!

  The 3.5 mile hike up took me about 3.5 hours, and 2 hours down. I do not think I will be back to Lanipo anytime soon or at least not until I shed some weight from my 35 pound pack. I enjoyed the hike, bucket list checked, but this trail kicked my butt. If I am able to reach all the summits on O'ahu, then maybe I will reconsider giving this one another go. I will be sure to bring someone who has not yet faced this peak to share the adventure.
Safe hiking and 73,
Allen - KH7AL

Thanks to those who helped me activate this summit for the first time.
18.165 MHz, times approximated:
19:14z   N7AMA
19:15z   K6EL
19:16z   N1EU
19:18z   K1JD
19:18z   N6KZ
19:19z   NS7P
19:20z   K7SO
19:21z   N4EX
19:23z   W7JET

19:25z   MM0USU

Ball, Stuart M. Jr (2000). The Hikers Guide to O'ahu, Revised Edition. University of Hawai'i Press.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

KH6 SOTA Activation Day

KH6 Association Reference Manual link

After a long wait and much hard work by N7UN (Guy) and K6EL (Elliott), Hawai'i Summits On The Air (SOTA) became a reality yesterday (1 Sept, 0000Z). I met K6EL in person for the first time Friday downtown at his hotel in Waikiki and had lunch. We discussed our activation plans and he gave me some last minute advice as this was going to be my first activation. Thankfully, I did not feel like too much like a rookie thanks to Elliott's support.

My eldest son, Kiegan (8), asked to come along. I almost said no as I was too focused on getting on the air and had forgot that this is supposed to be fun too. He quickly talked me into it and the two of us were off to climb Koko Crater trail to activate KH6/OH-021. This was the second time we have climbed this peak together. We had a great father-son day. He helped pull his dad (figuratively) up the hill with his coaxing. This was the first hiking with a substantial backpack and boy am I reconsidering trading out the 9 Ah sealed lead-acid battery for something lighter. It took us 45 minutes to reach the 1208' summit; respectable considering my 35 lb pack and the temperature close to 90F. The Koko Crater trail is a beast. Think Stair Master on steroids. The old supply tram rail provides the 1000+ steps needed to reach the top. However, it can prove somewhat dangerous descending if your legs are tired. There are many tripping hazards on the way up and down. Kiegan actually did a somersault (not on purpose) about half way down; he was okay but definitely more dusty than before.

At the top we got to work setting up. Kiegan again was a great help and seemed to enjoy helping Dad hook up all the connections. I made a quick contact with KQ0C (working the Colorado QSO party) to test out the HF setup before 0-hour and to K6EL across the way on Diamond Head (KH6/OH-025). When 1 September arrived at 1400 (HST) we had great support from several local HAMs to ensure we each had our four required contacts. The view from the top is spectacular. There are several old structures at the top to aid putting up an antenna. The downside is that is was pretty dusty with the trade winds blowing on the summit at a substantial clip. We were both powder coated by the time we were through.

Lessons Learned: If your signal report drops suddenly along with your receive level, check to see if your telescopic mast has not collapsed inside itself a length or two or three... a quick corrective adjustment could have resulted in several more QSO's.

Here is a list of the contacts I made. Thanks to everyone who helped get on KH6 Summits On The Air!
KH6/OH-021 "Kohelepelepe"; 1028' prominence.
0000 K6EL (S2S)
0002 KH6WG
0005 KH6XL

0013 NS7P
0014 WH6DXW
0017 AB7YL
0018 W7RV
0021 N7AMA
0020 WA7JTM
0022 W7USA
0024 N1EU
0027 K7SO
0029 KF7PXT
0030 KU6J (S2S)
0031 N5XL
0032 K3XD
0032 VA7ZOO
0039 K7JDF (S2S)

 Some pictures of our journey.

My son keeping watch atop Koko Crater

The view over Koko crater looking ENE

Kiegan "playing" operator

"The Beast"

Monday, January 28, 2013

20 Meter Moxon Antenna

   I was officially introduced to the Moxon Antenna by a local Ham (KH6IB) at our club's meeting this month, where he demonstrated a vertical Moxon built for 2 meters and claimed it had > 6 dB gain... I was Sold. 

Parts for my build:
  • 3 each, 10ft x 1" schedule 40 PVC (used for irrigation) 
  • 1 each, 1" four-way interconnect (went with 4-way in case I want to someday used a center mast)
  • 3 each, 1" PVC end caps
  • 4 each, small eyelet screws (for upper arms rope support)
  • Enough #12 or #14 stranded copper wire
  • Feed line
  • 1 can spray paint, flat, dark-green
  • A handful of plastic cable ties
  • Rope and/or 550 (parachute) cord
  • 1 each, small pulley
  • 1 each, 5-gallon bucket
My costs: about $40.

   Upon questioning KH6IB about building one for 20 meters, he referred me to the Moxon Antenna Project website (KD6WD's Moxon Antenna Project). It has pretty much everything you will need with many useful testimonials and photos of other HAMs' interpretations of the antenna. The key is the free-ware program to design and build the antenna.  As the Moxon is essentially a two-element Yagi, there is a need to follow the instructions to get your driven and reflector element cut and placed where you need them. 
   You also have to figure out how to support this antenna. I went for the vertical Moxon supported at the top-center with rope. I reasoned it would require the least supports (guys) for my situation, allow me to utilize the tall trees nearby, and provide a relatively quick setup and tear-down. I toyed with the idea of using really long fishing poles, plus extensions but realized this would not be as tactical as I would like. Don't get me wrong, this #20MeterAntenna is still a beast, with the legs at 25 ft long, and a spread of 9 ft. The big plus is that you only need to have it a few feet off the ground. This antenna models a 6 dBi gain and nearly 40 dB F/B ratio.


   This part was pretty straight forward. I cut one of the 10 ft PVC pipes in half and fitted the two pieces into the four-way interconnect. Then I cut a 2 ft piece to act as my vertical lift point and provide supports to the ends of the upper PVC arms. I capped the three ends, then pre-drilled the points were I wanted my eyelets and attached my arm support ropes. Lastly I added a loop of rope at the top to lift from. No glue needed in my build as the PVC seated snug enough.
   I was warned that the software (#Moxgen) might produce an off-frequency antenna on the low side, and to expect cutting the antenna for 400-600 KHz higher. I found this to be true in my case. I set the software for a center frequency of 14.2 MHz. I do not own a antenna analyzer so I relied solely on my radio's SWR meter to get me as close to 1.1:1 as possible. I ended up closer to 14.7 MHz by design measurements.
   With my original measurements and the PVC laying on the ground I affixed the driven and reflector wires to the upper section first using the plastic cable ties; taking care for the front/back spacing. I measured out the length to the bottom PVC and attached the wires with cable ties also. On the driven element I used a spare insulator and terminal piece to connect my feed line at the mid-point just using crimp-on spade lugs. Once elevated it is very important to support the feed line out and away from the elements. I found this made a huge difference in the noise level. 


  To keep the whole thing from swinging around in the breeze I just used a five-gallon bucket of water and tied one of the bottom ends to the handle with fishing line. To tune the antenna, I made small increases in the software's frequency and calculated the amount to be cut/re-positioned in inches; made the changes and retested. These testing cuts are made easier if you use two ropes: one tied at the top with a pulley, the other to raise and lower the antenna through the pulley. Once finished, I painted it flat-green to blend into the yard and trees. It is hardly visible to someone driving by on the street only 25 feet away. Bottom line, if you are looking for a weekend antenna experiment or something to haul out for Field Day, consider the Moxon Antenna.
de KH7AL

Moxon Antenna

Top-center, lift point.

Close up of the PVC ends in storage mode.

Up in the tree, pre-painting.

Feed point connection.

Top center piece.
For another great tactical antenna, check out Honolulu Emergency Amateur Radio Club's (EARC) EFHW matchbox. Its a great deal; kit or finished product, shipped for under $50.

1st HAM Radio Post

  The biggest allure to me about HAM radio is that with a very simple setup, anyone can communicate wirelessly with another person thousands of miles away. I understand there are a lot of physics and a myriad of ionospheric variables going on; it just amazes me that a wire cut to a specific length resonates at a given electromagnetic frequency. Upon that frequency we can modulate information to be demodulated at some other place on the planet. In this day and age, it is something completely taken for granted.
  Rant aside, I really enjoy building antennas. The never-ending quest is to find the most bang for my limited buck while staying tactical. I live in a housing area which is not friendly or understanding to the needs of a HAM to communicate. My first antenna was an inverted-L for 20 and 40 Meters. It looked like a Frankenstein creation gone wrong. Hastily made ground radials were flung about and the vertical wires were tied with string up the nearest tree trunk outside my shack. I loved it because it was my first antenna and it actually worked. I managed to talk with someone in New Zealand from Alaska on it.
  Since then I have experimented with others. Luckily I have trees nearby to allow quick access to throw a line up and make things happen. My second vertical with upgraded ground plane connection plate was good and stealthy, until the community yard maintenance ate up my ground radials with their industrial lawn mower. My homebrew inverted-V with homemade ladder line worked well until someone questioned if I owned a monkey (ladder line into the trees) and the HOA came calling shortly thereafter. I had good success with an end-fed wire antenna, but it lacked one very desirable quality: directivity. And that brings me to the point of this all...Please see my next post on the Moxon antenna.