Thursday, December 25, 2008

December 2008 Polar Bear QRP Event

Wow!! What a contrast to the October Polar Bear outing! Just about a 50-deg f. temperature swing! Just what Polar Bears like! This Saturday was two days after a sleet/ice storm in our area and the ice was everywhere, especially on my favorite antenna support structure, the BearFort Firetower.

You can get more information about the Polar Bears at the Yahoo Group: PolarBearsQrp_Ops. It seemed that 20m was pretty hot given the current solar conditions. Worked a number of Polar Bears on the west coast including K6BBQ and KE7LKW, a new Polar Bear in Wash. Hope to work you on our January 2009 outing!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

October 2008 Polar Bear "Season Opening" at the BearFort Firetower

Here's the latest video of a recent "Open Den" at my nearby antenna support structure for field QRP activities. Several local "polar bears" joined my on this not-so-winter day for some QRP fun in the sun.

Although the temperatures were in the mid-70's during the day, it was a great "first of the 2008-2009 Polar Bear QRP" events and got us all excited about our monthly Saturday QRP events during the winter time. I'm sure it will be colder/snower/windy than we want all too soon! You can get more information about the Polar Bears at the Yahoo Group: PolarBearsQrp_Ops. Hope to work you on one of these outings!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

N0B & N6IZ have First HF qrp 14er-to-14er QSO (state-to-state)

Video #2 "Gaining Altitude" is an account of N0B's journey into thin air with Rooster and Peanut is now online! You can view the video at:

On August 10 2008 N0B (operators Guy/N7UN and Steve/N0TU) along with their faithful Sherpa/goats (Rooster and Peanut) set out to climb Uncompahgre Peak, CO (14,309') from the Nellie Creek Trailhead (11,400'). Meanwhile in CA, Brian/N6IZ was climbing Mt Whitney (14,498' highest peak in lower 48) had 8 miles and 6200' between him and the summit, almost double the effort of N0B! The Ham 14er Event ( provided a perfect venue for our Old Goats QRPexpedition adventure. The video tells the rest of the story.

BTW this adventure was so inspiring Guy and Steve are already making plans for next years Ham 14er Event! Meanwhile Rooster and Peanut suggest we stick to lower elevations for our QRP/goat hikes.

So here's the N0B list of productions by Steve/N0TU:
Video # 1 "Getting Attitude"
Video # 2 "Gaining Altitude"
Video # 3 "Altitude with Attitude"
Related links:

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

We Made It!!! A Successful climb of 14,309' Uncompaghre Mtn in Colorado for the Coloradio 14er Event!

Wow!! What a trip! We made it to the top of 14,309’ Uncompaghre, spent several hours on HF and VHF making numerous contacts before our descent. In spite of early clouds and 30 mph winds, we braved the harsh mountain top conditions until the sun broke through and warmed our bodies and spirits. The next 2 hours was “fun on HF CW and SSB” as we made contacts around the country. Our most notable contact was with Brian, N6IZ, on 14,497’ Mt. Whitney in California! We had coordinated our mountaintop schedule to align with Brian's in an attempt to be the FIRST to have a Colorado 14er contact with an out-of-Colorado 14er. Brian had a KX1 at 3w and a vertical and we had a K2 at 5w to an inverted Vee dipole on a Jackite 28’ mast. And Steve’s “mountain” pack goats were our invaluable sherpas! More information, writeups, and videos will follow as we craft our stories! Steve/N0TU has posted a few pictures at .

Friday, June 13, 2008

National Trail Day QRP Adventure

It was a hot, humid and windless day for QRP adventure to a nearby "antenna support structure", BearFort Firetower just south of West Milford NJ. I have been to this site numerous times in the winter but wanted to get some video in order to use Microsoft's Movie Maker 2 software....which is free for Windows XP and Vista users. Nice package with some enhanced features and the price is right! I'm experimenting with packing my K2 since I'll be using it for CW and SSB for the upcoming Coloradio 14er adventure in August. This video also includes some footage of my multi-band dipole that I use for backpacking.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Colorado August 12th 14er Activation:

Steve/N0TU, Guy/N7UN, and Dan/K0UIF, all part of the Old Goats QRPexpedition Team, are planning a summit activation of one of the 54 Colorado "14ers", mountains over 14,000' ASL. This effort will be during the Colorado 14ers Special Event where radio amateurs activate a peak to communicate with other amateurs. Primary activity will take place between 1500 and 1800 UTC on HF/VHF/UHF frequencies. See and for more information. The Old Goats team effort will primarily be QRP HF on 40/30/20m but will have 144/440 SSB capability also.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Old Goats QRPedition Team in Canyonlands NP, Utah

An avid participant in a number of the PolarBear winter QRP activities, Steve, N0TU, has gained quite a following for his videos documenting his QRP activities in the field particularily with his pack goats, Rooster and Peanut. So when I had a business trip to Las Vegas, I contacted Steve for a possible joint outing somewhere in south Utah. We quickly settled in on the Canyonlands Needles District ( for a 3-day, 2 night backcountry hiking trip and, of course, some QRP fun on April 11-14th.

The weather couldn’t have been better with cool mid-thirties at night, and the 70’s during the day. And the stars….amazing to see the Milky Way again! We had a great adventure, saw some fantastic topography where eons of wind and sand have sculpted rock monoliths and canyons of incredible color and shapes. Words, or even pictures, really don’t capture the magnitude of the place. You really have to visit the area yourself to gain a sense of the majesty. And we had a lot of fun with our QRP rigs…especially the 2nd and 3rd days.

I’ve created a small slide show of some still photographs:

or you can see the large screen show with captions at .

Steve has wielded his video magic and created a four part series on YouTube! Steve is a master at capturing the action! Here's the whole Needles series:

DX on the Mesa with a Buddistick
Backpacking in the Needles (part I)
Backpacking in the Needles (part II)
...and the latest BIG one:
Backpacking in the Needles (part III)

Out of this hike came some new plans for upcoming adventures for the Old Goats QRPexpedition Team including a HF QRP activation of the summit of one of the Colorado 14ers during the annual August Coloradio 14er event. Info on this primarily VHF/UHF special event can be found at . Our goal is a QRP HF activation with a big effort! Certainly we will keep everyone posted of our plans for this QRP special event!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Blue Mountain Adirondacks Adventure!

My winter hiking friend, Joel Miller (W2TQ) and I have hiked into several "vista" locations, primarily firetower sites, in the Adirondacks these past few months. Part of the "fun" is to get out in the winter and experience popular summer hiking sites during snowy winter conditions. Secondly, it is an opportunity to improve cold, winter camping skills and test equipment in harsh or challenging weather. Blue Mtn at 3,760' and located in the central Adirondacks and the firetower atop the peak provided for great vistas in all directions. Blue Mtn receives around 15,000 visitors in the summer months and is a popular snowshoe site in the winter. Part of my fun is to hang a dipole off the Firetower and operate QRP with my trusty K1. And to make our campout even more interesting, a large Nor'easter was headed our way so we were expecting some "challenging" weather!

We started the 1500' elevation gain climb Friday about 12:30. The sun was out and the temps were in the low 30's. Nice! The Nor'easter was already raging through the Ohio valley with record snowfalls and temps in the single digits. We were on the "warm" side of the low pressure but the A'dacks create their own weather. So we were anticipating snow, sleet, freezing rain and maybe even high winds. I had my trusty N7UN sled with the new brackets for using my ski poles as "arms" to steer, lift, and guide the sled particularily on downhills. Joel, W2TQ, was using his new sled for the first time.

The climb to the top was uneventful. If we stayed on the snowshoe-packed trail, the two feet of snow was not problematic. If you stepped off the trail, you postholed a couple of feet. It's a 2 mile climb to the top of Blue Mtn and the Blue Mtn Firetower. The top area had a couple of feet of crusty snow, was fairly open, and the firetower somewhat ice-crusted over. And it was just in time 'cause you could see the dark clouds out of the south heading our way! With tents up, my multiband antenna up, we battened down the hatches as it began to snow. I had hoped to be on 20m for an hour or so to make a contact with N0TU. I made two contacts on 20m before a heavy pulse-noise interference overloaded the K1 AGC and drove me to 40m. But this required a very quick change of the multiband dipole in the now heavier snow storm. A few minutes later, I was tuning on 40 which was challenging since a 1/4 of the dipole was laying across nearby trees about 15' off the ground. But the K1 tuned up with a 1.6 swr and 4 watts out. 40 mtrs was hot! I had a nice chat with Ken WA8REI who had a strong signal with me. I was on 40m from 6pm to 7pm and worked a lot of folks but no other Polar Bears.
It was snowing hard now and in an hour or so we had 2"...looked like a foot or more by morning if this snowfall rate kept up. But around midnight it started to sleet followed by freezing rain for a while then quiet and calm from 2am on. By morning, we had about 6" of new snow and an inch of ice on my dipole and temps around the high 20's! I shook the coax and knocked some ice off but not much. Fortunately the trusty K1 tuned up ok which amazed me with the inch of ice on the dipole wires. I made some fun contacts in the midwest with folks getting a lot of snow and bitterly cold temps, e.g. -5 f. in Wisconsin! The Nor'easter was heading our way but not forecasted to hit until later that Saturday nite. Fortunately we were hiking down that day and would miss the worst of the weather and the forecasted 50-60 mph winds, heavy icing and then a significant snowfall.
We had breakfast (love my gourmet roasted oats, christened with sweet spices...ok, ok, oatmeal!) and then started to pack up. The forecast was for freezing rain or just rain until a change over to all snow later Sat. evening as this fairly powerful Nor'easter moved up the Ohio valley. And just in time because it started to rain! With temps now in the low 30's the rain was cold but our activity kept us warm.

We got back down the mountain quickly, loaded up the gear in the pickup, had a great lunch at a local resturant and then started our 4 hr trip back to NJ. Wow, did it ever rain hard almost the whole trip back. Flooding for sure for northern NJ and SE NY. So it was a grand adventure not only to QRP operate from a new location but to experience some "challenging" weather. And it proves that with relatively simple QRP equipment and an antenna "in the trees" you can effectively communicate, even in the worst of conditions.

Guy, N7UN/2
RainMan, PB#15

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Improvements to the N7UN Sled:

A number of folks have inquired about the N7UN sled that I’ve been using for carrying my backpack on snow during winter hikes. The use of a sled significantly reduces the amount of work during the hike since the backpack is carried in the sled which slides almost effortlessly on snow. Added benefits are the reduction of “wear-and-tear” on the body due to carrying a 35-45 lb pack on your back over 3-5 miles and climbing or gaining a lot of elevation.

Coming down hills is more challenging although. The sled “nips” at your heels since it's sliding down hill. I was holding my ski poles behind me against my pack to control it. I later added some aluminum brackets to the sled and drilled a hole in each bracket just larger than my ski pole tip. The idea was to put my ski pole tips in the bracket holes thereby providing a tighter connection with increased positive control of the sled during the downhills.

This worked great on the trip to Blue Mtn recently. In fact my ski poles would “wedge” themselves in the bracket holes thereby allowing me to lift the front of the sled which is very helpful in crossing creeks or trail obstacles. The problem however is the wear-and-tear on the ski pole tip due to being wedged in the bracket hole. During the Blue Mtn trip, after several hours of downhill control of the sled by use of the ski poles, the tips broke off. It seems on my Black Diamond poles, the tip is connected to the aluminum shaft by a hard plastic shell which becomes the weak point and eventually cracks and then breaks off.

Joel Miller, W2TQ, my winter hiking friend, suggested that I might adapt some sort of ball joint to connect the ski pole to the bracket. Good idea! So a google search later for “small ball joints” I found a potential solution at Small Parts, Inc. in a ¼” thread swivel ball joint with an overall length of 1-13/16”. I then threaded the ski pole shaft end to fit the ¼” thread, bolted the ball joint to the bracket and screwed in the ski pole shaft and “eureka!” a positive control to the sled with a swivel joint. The sled front end can now be lifted to clear terrain obstacles and the ski poles act like arms to the sled for very positive control during steep downhill sections of a descent.

Although I haven’t tested this improvement yet in actual snow/hiking conditions, it should work great. Now I can control the sled during the downhills, and still have the rope-to-waist belt for pulling the sled during the uphill sections of the hike and my poles free from the sled to assist in the uphill climb.

Until you try a sled to haul your gear, I can’t tell you how much less work is required which in turn results in a much more enjoyable winter hike over longer distances.

The Small Parts, Inc. part number for the swivel ball joint I used is: BJS-06-01 and costs $4.75 each. An engineering drawing of the part can be seen at: Hopefully these ideas can make your winter hiking more enjoyable!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Feb 2008 Polar Bear Madness

After a 12" snowfall the day before, I elected to throw my multiband dipole up in some of my backyard trees and operate the Polar Bear event from the comfort of my picnic table. Although the temperature was in the high 20's and we had some very light snow flurries, I was very comfortable and warm. This was also another opportunity to "practice my video filming techniques", hopefully with lessons learned from the previous video efforts! Another goal was to try to work Steve, N0TU who was going up to Mt Herman near Monument CO with his packgoats and to use the Polar Bear Club callsign, W3PBC. Here's a video from my backyard "On the Ice Shelf" production:

So it was a lot of fun, I made a number of great contacts including Ken, WA8REI, whose "fist" is sounding as good as ever, and I did make contact with Steve, W3PBC/N0TU. That was real fun as his signal was loud and a good copy. With all the new snow, the backyard "ice shelf" was a great operating location. Hope to work you on my next winter outing sometime in March.

You can get more information about the Polar Bear QRP Club at:

Thanks for the contacts,

Guy, N7UN/2, Polar Bear #15, aka "RainMan"

Sunday, February 10, 2008

N7UN Climb of Black Mtn, Adirondacks, NY

My winter hiking friend Joel W2TQ and I went up to near Lake George, NY and climbed up to the firetower on top of Black Mtn in the Adirondacks, NY. This site is about 15 miles NW of Rutland, VT and overlooks Lake George in NY.

This is my first attempt at using my digital camera to video some of my hiking experiences. So I apologize in advance for the "roughness" of this production...on some of these video excerpts you will need to turn your head 90-degs to the left to adequately view. Too many years as a still photographer....I learned you can't turn the camera 90-degs to get a wider perspective! Next time we'll do better....I promise.

So all-in-all this was a "10" for a winter camping experience. There was enough snow to make it fun, the scenery was beautiful, and the N7UN Winter Sled made the hike very enjoyable. I'm already planning the next winter hike into the Red Hill Firetower in the southern Catskills, maybe sometime in March!

Guy, N7UN/2, Polar Bear #15, aka "RainMan"

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Jan 2008 Overlook Mtn Firetower

I had visited this site back in June, 2007 and catalogued it as a winter camping possibility based on several camping areas, ease of access, and a superior ham radio location because of the “antenna support structure”, errr…. Firetower on the edge of an 1000’ escarpment facing southwest and overlooking the Woodstock Catskills valleys. You can see some site pictures at: .

The trip goals were to do some more winter camping, hopefully this time with snow since my previous trip to Catfish Firetower on January 4th was without snow. Also I wanted to evaluate a new winter tent, the Hilleberg Soulo. The Hilleberg tents are a bit more expensive but the tent is a true above-treeline winter capable tent used by mountaineers and is renowned for its high wind survivability design. Winter camping, especially in sub-freezing temperatures, requires a much more stringent set of skills and equipment than summer, warm temperature hiking and camping. Hypothermia is an ever-present danger and winter campers must develop and test their skills and equipment to cope and survive in harsh winter conditions. Personal heat management processes of minimizing perspiration due to overexertion or staying dry in wet, snowy conditions are critical survival skills. In winter, once you get wet there often is no opportunity to dry out and that can be fatal. And once you become cold in sub freezing temperatures you often can not get warm again. Furthermore any clothes that become wet become unusable because they freeze! You can see the pictures at:

So my winter hiking friend, Joel W2TQ and I set out from the Overlook Mtn parking area around noon, Jan. 18th. Although sunny and blue-sky clear, the temps were in the low 20’s with forecasted near O f. overnight temps. The last snowfall was a week or so ago and the trail was snow packed and icy in spots. I had my Kahtoolas but did not bring the snowshoes.

The 2.5 mile hike and 1,500 foot elevation gain to the top was beautiful, passing the skeleton of the Old Overlook Mountain House ( at the two mile mark. This link has some great pictures of this magnificent hotel. A short time later, we were at the Overlook Firetower, a 60’ Aeromoter steel cabin structure. The winds were out of the northwest at 10-15 mph but harsh on any exposed skin. We set up camp about 200 yds east of the tower near the Overlook escarpment to the east that provided great vistas of Kingston NY and the Hudson River valley. After getting my tent up in the 6” of snow, I went up to the tower to hang my multiband dipole from the 60’ level to the 20’ top of a nearby tree. The dipole center was at about 35’ and oriented southwest-northeast. The tower is perched on an escarpment that drops 750 to 1000 feet to the south and overlooks the nearby town of Woodstock, NY. So the HAAT couldn’t be better for my QRP K1 signal to the southwest.

However by 4 pm the temps were in the teens and the wind was still gusting to 20 mph, making the windchills “challenging!” I was setup on a picnic table and bundled up with all my clothes to stay warm. Operating my HandiKey with gloves on is a skill I haven’t quite mastered yet, but I mustered several good qsos and always to the amazement of those in 70-deg shacks. “You’re doing what?” “You must be crazy!” are typical comments but always offering encouragement of “keep warm” and thanks for the field efforts.

Sunset was near and I packed up the K1 but left the antenna in place as I wanted to operate again in the morning. Without any protection from the now-steady 20 mph winds and temps dropping into the mid-teens, it was just too difficult to stay warm and continue to operate. I went back to camp and took a number of pictures of the sunset. Joel is a much more dedicated photographer and had his Canon Digital SLR setup on a tripod to record the sunset panorama unfolding to the west. By 5:30 it was dark and dinner preparation began. Heat! And my cold hands enjoyed the trace warmth from my MSR gas stove. Freeze-dried Turkey Tettracini was on the evening menu…yuummmm! I recently discovered the value of heating your extra water, storing it in your cozie-wrapped water bottle and putting it at the bottom of your sleeping bag as a footwarmer. What joy! And it stays warm all night long. It’s surprising what an impact warm feet can have on your overall camping experience!

One other challenge with winter camping is that it is dark by 5pm, dinner by 6pm and then what? So you stand around in the cold talking until 8 pm then out of boredom you crawl into the bag for warmth. It’s probably the only time I get 10 hrs of sleep! Overnite temps were down to nearly 5f. So it was cold but the tent stayed much warmer than I expected…in the high teens!

I was up at 7 am to see the sunrise but unfortunately low-level clouds obscured the eastern light show this morning. With occasional snow flakes, we cooked breakfast. My breakfast menu choices were gourmet oatmeal seasoned with brown sugar and hot tea. Can it get any better than oatmeal and tea?

I packed up everything and then went up to the firetower to operate Saturday morning. Fast moving clouds occasionally obscured the sun coupled with the single-digit temps and the 10 mph winds that cut into any exposed skin. I pulled the K1 out for duty (always amazed how well it operates in these temperatures!) and made a few qsos with folks in the midwest and southeast. After an hour I was too cold to continue so packed up the antenna and gear to start the trip back to the pickup. It was Saturday morning so we were seeing a number of folks on the trail who were out for a quick morning dayhike.

What fun! And we were already planning our next winter camping trip in mid February. Hopefully it will snow this time! And I already have ideas for adapting a winter sled (“pulk”) to take the winter pack off my back! So the adventures and of course the stories continue….

Monday, January 07, 2008

2008 Camp Run-A-MOC, a QRP Adventure

It was about noon on Friday, Jan 4th when my new Garmin Nuvi GPS flawlessly guided me into the Appalachian Mohican Outdoor Center (MOC) ( ) in west New Jersey. The Appalachian Trail crosses about 1/4-mile from the MOC lodge, a very busy place during the summer hiking season both with local day hikers as well as the AT thru-hikers. Joel, W2TQ and I met up with Ed, WA3WSJ, Glen, NK1N, and the other early arrivals at our cabin "Blueberry Hill" for our 3rd annual January Polar Bear outing. The weather was uneventful (as opposed to previous years) with warm temperatures and clear skies forecasted for this weekend.

Joel and I intended to hike up to Catfish FireTower (
) on the Kittatinny ridge about 500 elevation feet above the MOC and spend the night as part of a winter camping shakedown of tents and equipment. Although not as cold as our previous Mt. Everett, MA effort the first of December ( ), overnight temps were in the low 20’s but generally clear skies and the afternoon breezes died down after sunset.

I additionally intended to hang my multi-band dipole (40, 30, 20 ) off the 60’ antenna support structure, errr.. firetower for some 40m QRP fun with my Elecraft K1. My goal was to operate Friday evening and Saturday morning. The AT follows the Kittatinny Ridge in west New Jersey for about 40 miles. And Catfish is one of two 60' firetowers in this section. This is a great location because the terrain both east and west drops off over 500' very rapidly thereby significantly enhancing any RF QRP signal.

We left Blueberry Hill cabin about 1:30 pm and the 1.5 mile hike up to Catfish was easy in spite of our heavy packs, full of cold weather gear, extra water, stoves, and large tents. With only a breeze up top, tent setup was uneventful. Joel wasn't going to operate so I garnered the best tent location near the tower. I climbed the 60' tower and hung one end of my 40m dipole at the 60' level and the other end over the top of some 20' elm trees with the 35' of coax directly over my tent. The dipole broadside was NW-SE, optimum for any midwest contacts. We were ready to go and I quickly setup the K1. It's always a rush when you first power up the rig and hear the band hopping with activity. It was going to be really fun operating from such a great location and the winter weather couldn't be more cooperative.

Sunset was at 5 pm and the temperature was dropping fast. Forecasted overnight lows were in the mid-teens although current readings were in the high 20's. I was on the air at 5:15 and had a number of quick qso's before striking Polar Bear gold with a fun QSO with Steve, N0TU, in Coloradio. Always a treat to share a GRRRRRRRR with our Bears out west! I worked a few more folks that evening before taking a break to fix dinner. It wasn't until after 8 pm that I got back to 40m but the band was really long and the QRN challenging.

Sunrise was around 7 am and I awoke to a brilliant cherry red sky to the east. Temperatures were in the low 20s with no wind so the morning looked very promising. A quick CQ bagged NK1N who was up a bit early in order to start breakfast for the in-the-lodge-den Bears and then a surprise with a long 57N qso with CM2AF in Havana who gave me a 55N...not a bad way to start the QRP morning! After a quick gourmet oatmeal breakfast, I was back on the radio for a bunch of QSOs including a number of Polar Bears. Over all I had 28 QSOs including 7 Polar Bears (N0TU, WA3WSJ, NK1N, WB3AAL, WA8REI, AB4PP, and AB0SR). More information about the Polar Bear Club can be found at ( ). Thanks to all the Polar Bear's who were out on the hunt. It's always fun to share a few GRRRRRs!

It was now around 10 am and we had a few visitors hiking into the area. Temperatures were climbing fast into the low 40's and now sunny. Almost T-shirt weather!

Four of the MOC Bears hiked up to the Firetower around 11am to visit and also operated QRP portable on the ridge adjacent to the Firetower for a couple of hours. Joel and I broke camp about 1 pm and met the rest of the guys on our way back down to the lodge. We had a fun but uneventful overnight on the Ridge but the prospect of a warm shower and the comfort of the lodge was very appealing, like the reward of an ice cream cone after a hard day's work in the summer.

So the stories were fairly mundane but sometimes that's just the way it is. There will be many more opportunities for Mother Nature to balance the scorecard. Thanks to everyone who gave us a Polar Bear contact!

Guy, N7UN/2

Polar Bear #15